Making the Case to Your Museum to Join MASS Action

This work is important, relevant, and timely for museums to address.  If you would like to help make the case to your institution to be involved, here are some strategies you could use to have a conversation with your colleagues.

1. Introduce the project.
I would like to ask for your support on a project called Museum as Site for Social Action (MASS Action). It’s an exciting three-year project in which museums from around the country are coming together to discuss how we can build our capacity to respond to issues affecting the communities we engage with, globally and locally. An action-based toolkit has been built by a group of professionals that will help museums shape internal practices to align with, and better inform, a more inclusive public practice. I believe being a part of this project would be a huge opportunity. Would you be interested in reviewing the details of the commitment that we would be asked to make in order to participate? Is this a step that our institution is ready to take?

2. Outline the expectations of the Convening
WHAT: In October 2017, a large convening will be held at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. They are inviting staff teams from museums who will use the toolkit and who are committed to embedding strategies of inclusion into their institutions. The Convening will feature case studies, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and other discussions of how to put theory into practice.

WHO: The program suggests that two staff from each museum attend, one of whom represents the leadership team.  Who from our staff might be a good fit to participate?

WHEN: October 11-13, 2017

WHERE: The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)

COST: Registration $125/per person.  The fee for the 2017 MASS Action Convening will cover breakfast and lunch and all materials.

3. Share some reasons why this work is important

•In order to truly engage our communities, museums must first change internally. Our staff and board must reflect the local community, become more culturally competent, and work together to create an inclusive work environment. By diversifying our talent pool and learning cultural-competency skills, we will bring together people from different backgrounds with varied experiences and working styles, thus creating a team with multiple viewpoints and perspectives. Diverse views make for better decisions and lead to more innovation. An equitable and accessible plan should be established, so that our staff is more representative of the communities we engage.

To do this, inclusion must be embedded in our work culture and should not be seen as an isolated program, but rather as a core value, a source of innovation, and a means to growth and success.  To truly become an inclusive museum, we need roadmaps that will help us eliminate structures that sustain exclusive and unjust power structures. If we can evolve an effective way to achieve equity and inclusion, we can be a model at the vanguard of change in our field.

Cultural competency will advance our relationships with one another, with our visitors, and with our greater communities. Ultimately, creating a more inclusive environment from the inside out, in other words “turn the social justice lens inward”, will signal to visitors that the museum is a resource, one that reflects, and is relevant to them.

In order to truly make an impact, we need an institution-wide, cross-departmental commitment to effective engagement with our communities. To do so, we will coordinate our efforts internally—from research to content development and programming to fundraising and communications support. This toolkit will enable us to work closely with community partners and stakeholders to better understand motivations and interests, and to intentionally develop ongoing relationships that result in transformational change.

4. Share why this work is important now

In the face of continuing violence and political struggle nationwide, we need to provide a space that encourages deeper cultural and racial understanding and communication. We are at a turning point in history when museums—mediators of culture—can commit to responding to issues impacting our visitors and surrounding communities.  Given that museums play a vital role in public education, we need to step up and become essential to local and national dialogue. Committing to this project is one step we can take.

Museums, as sites of education and interpretation, have a role to play in facilitating dialogues that bridge social divisions in the service of greater understanding, empathy and justice. They also have the urgent responsibility to examine the narratives they have created, to the exclusion of others, and in this way been part of the system that has minimized the free exchange of ideas, experiences and truths that allow for equitable engagement in civic discourse.

5. If you feel comfortable and able, share what this work means to you personally

6. Responding to various scenarios:

If the barrier to your museum’s participation is budgetary, please share that
Organizers of the Convening want to make every effort to cover requests for partial or full travel assistance. We do not want to limit participation for financial barriers and believe your museum would have significant impact on the Convening. If finances are a barrier, we encourage you to submit a request for travel stipends, and for a reduced participation fee.

If the barrier to your museum’s participation is time or capacity
Consider how your current work and priorities could be enhanced by participation in MASS Action, and perhaps build your case on that connection.

If the barrier to your museum’s participation is that it is outside the scope of your work…
Perhaps you could provide examples of how you personally have encountered the need for increased training and resources related to becoming a more inclusive institutions. Share the ways in which your relationships with communities impact your work on a daily basis.

7. Additional resources to share

Bringing Self Examination to the Center of Social Justice Work in Museums



The Dreamspace Project

The Empathetic Museum Maturity Model

Crosslines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality

Multicultural Critical Reflective Practice
Oppression A Museum Primer

The Labor of Diversity

The Future of Diversity


Museum Hue

Leadership Matters

Visitors of Color

Museum Commons

Museum 2.0

Museums and Race Reading list

Social Justice and Museums Resource List