For the first time in two decades, the American Alliance of Museums, an organization that oversees policies around museums in the U.S., will update standards that apply to museum workforces related to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI).
The museum group has detailed plans to establish a new initiative meant to implement the standards. The organization will appoint an advisory panel made up of six to eight experts in the museum space to draw up the new DEAI standards over the course of the next three years. The initiative, the organization said in a statement, is backed by a $740,000 government grant distributed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The announcement follows AAM’s recent issuing of a report on DEAI issues in the museum sphere in August. The report was published as part of a research and hiring initiative the group dubbed “Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity and Inclusion,” that included the appointment of anthropologist Johnnetta Betsch Cole as the organization’s senior diversity fellow in August. Cole was tapped to carry out AAM’s five-year DEI initiative.
The last time the organization issued an update to standards that apply to its member institutions was in 2005, requiring more transparency on financial disclosures.
How those standards will be applied to the organization’s accreditation process have yet to be detailed. The organization says the move is part of an “effort to create more equitable outcomes in all aspects of museum structures and programming.”
The report, compiled by a DEI task force that included experts from the Smithsonian and Ford Foundation was drawn up to serve as the “framework” for DEAI as standards in the museum field. The report follows AAM’s receipt of a $4 million cross-foundational grant allocated to support DEAI in 2019.
Pressure to move DEAI initiatives forward at cultural institutions came in 2020 amid a nation-sweeping protest movement around racial inequities spurred by the murder of George Floyd. In 2017, the AAM released a survey revealing the extent of racial inequities represented in museum governance – that nearly half of all museum boards in the U.S. were 100 percent white.
Since then, museum positions promoting inclusivity have been installed with growing frequency. The Seattle Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, SFMOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have all instated full-time DEI-focused roles.