Excellence and Equity: 25 and Still Alive

“Museums must become more inclusive places that welcome diverse audiences, but first they should reflect our society’s pluralism in every aspect of their operations and programs.”  Excellence and Equity.  1992

This sentence on the first page of Excellence and Equity makes it the prescient and seminal publication that it was in 1992 and that it remains today.

I was thrilled to see that the American Alliance of Museums is celebrating the silver anniversary of E&E with a compelling article in Museum–Excellence and Equity at 25: Then, Now, Next.  If you don’t get Museum Magazine you can find the article and a PDF reprint of E&E here. . The piece contains interviews with some of the original authors as well as commentary from other colleagues in the field.

I don’t exaggerate when I say that Excellence and Equity is a bit like the US Constitution: it could use an amendment or two, but its language is so fundamental and wise that–had it truly been followed over the last 25 years, especially in its guidelines around equity, we would not be in our current state of deficiency in areas of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.  E&E inspired tremendous change as museums moved toward the centrality of education in their missions, but its advice–to work first for equity within our organizations as a condition for attracting diverse audiences–has largely been ignored.

In January of this year the Association of Science Technology Centers published an article that Joanne Jones-Rizzi and I wrote for their publication Dimensions. Entitled “Museums, Diversity, and White Privilege: A Systemic Perspective,” the article is framed by quotations and ideas from Excellence and Equity precisely because of the systemic and fundamental language of that foundational document.

E&E has a bedrock, constitutional quality because its language looks at museums systemically; its guidelines and recommendations are broad and at the same time practical.  They reflect the great range of experience of its authors: in museum administration, curation, and communication with the public.  The phrase “the public dimension,” they were careful to explain, was not limited to education departments but was a characteristic that should infuse all museum endeavors.

Over the past decade a number of us have been concerned that the legacy of this important publication was being forgotten.  The current article in Museum restores credit where it is due. Let’s hope that we see many more of E&E’s recommendations for internal transformation put into practice before its golden anniversary! .

If you are reading this by email and wish to comment, please go to www.museumcommons.com.  You can also send me a tweet @gretchjenn. 



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