Reimagining the Museum: Community, Collaboration & Radical Inclusion

Mar 24, 2021

The fourth installment of the Hammer’s Reimagining the Museum series explores how a museum might authentically center the needs and voices of diverse communities and better leverage the skills of its education staff to build mutually beneficial and lasting relationships. For this discussion, Hammer associate director of academic programs Theresa Sotto and educators Tara Burns and Hallie Scott join Adjoa Jones de Almeida, director of education at the Brooklyn Museum; artist Raul Baltazar; Colored Girls Museum director Vashti Dubois; and OnRaé LaTeal Watkins, former senior manager of teen programs at the Hirshhorn Museum, to examine how museums have both failed and succeeded at uplifting their communities and reinventing museums as radically inclusive spaces.

Since May 2020 many museums have been broadcasting their support for Black lives and pledging to better “serve their communities.” These promises underscore a longstanding tension within the field: institutions have historically positioned themselves as providers of expertise and support for communities they aim to serve, rather than as partners within their communities working toward shared goals. Education staff—with unique skill sets in collaboration, community engagement, and facilitation—are shifting the relationship between museums and diverse groups of people by creating visitor-centered spaces of inclusion. Against the backdrop of decreased funding and museum layoffs across the field due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of museum educators has become even more critical to the future of our institutions as spaces of care.

Reimagining the Museum is an ongoing series of conversations initiated by the Hammer Museum in response to the call for the dismantling of colonial and racist histories in cultural institutions. Organized with the goal of providing a forum for these issues at a moment of enormous change within the field, these convenings are intended as a way of having a productive conversation in public about the history and future of museums.