This blog is the place to exchange ideas, news, issues and thoughts about diversity and multiculturalism in museums. The Multicultural Initiatives Committee is a Texas Association of Museums Affinity Group.

Friday, 18 April 2008

What is your definition of diversity?

I was fortunate enough to take part in a fascinating conference call yesterday outlining an incredible survey of people who visit outdoor museums completed by Reach Advisors (follow their blog here for more information). I was struck not only by the depth and breadth of responses, but also by the insight they were able to gather.

Although there were many interesting conclusions from the research, a couple really "hit home" with the issue of diversity/multiculturalism: 1) 97% of the survey respondents were white/caucasian, and 2) young mothers voiced entirely different "needs" from the museum than older males.

So what is YOUR definition of diversity? Do we sometimes get stuck thinking about multiculturalism as merely being about race and ethnicity? Can we recognize that diversity actually encompasses the whole microcosm of differences that make us each unique?

Clearly the issue of diversity extends beyond color lines. The white moms mentioned above would not benefit from the same educational approach that the white men would, even though they are both white. Why? Because they are different "cultures." When we factor in life circumstances (sexual orientation, geography, age, socioeconomic status, religion), all of a sudden multiculturalism takes on many new facets! Not only are we black, white, hispanic, native american, etc....all of a sudden we are also young, old, gay, straight, citified, country bumpkins, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, ice cream get the picture.

So how are we to serve each and every one of these "segments" of society? Does this mean that we shouldn't take steps to reach individual audiences?

I don't entirely have the answer to this question. I know that I want EVERYONE'S history to be represented. I also know that I want the gay hispanic mother to be just as comfortable here as the white older man. I know that having bilingual (english/spanish) labels are important...but I also know that some concepts transcend language barriers.

And I know recognizing that each patron is an individual with his/her own set of values, interests, and motivation is a start.

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