University Museums for equality and against discrimination

Posted on May 26, 2020

The 2020 IMD theme “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion” has shaped the month of May during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.  During this last week of May, the UP Museums focus on the aspect of equality and discrimination within a university museum environment.  

Equality must be presented not only in the workforce of any institution, but with regard to the inclusion of the whole community that museums serve, as well as by reflection of the diversity of collections represented in exhibitions and art galleries. Many of our exhibitions and new acquisitions are working towards promoting gender equality and identifying and addressing particular collection histories and challenges to ensuring equal representation and progression in a contemporary university museum context.

Globally, and increasingly it is suggested that university museums as educational and diverse landscapes have the potential to be proactive or “take positive action” in establishing a diverse and equitable student force and work force. Museums should be at the forefront of the fight against discrimination in terms of “gender, race, faith, sexuality, age and disability”.  By raising awareness of situations and historical contexts where prejudice is and was rife, museums should show the wrongs and to advocate for change.

According to the International National Council of Museums (ICOM) #IMD 2020, “stresses the potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for peoples of all origins and backgrounds”, which is central to their social value.

As agents of change and trusted institutions, there is no time like the present for museums to demonstrate their relevance by engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of modern society”. The challenges of inclusion and diversity and the difficulty of navigating complex social issues in increasingly polarised environments, while not unique to museums and cultural institutions, are important ones, due the high regard in which museums are held by society. 

In essence, society and by extension, museums as social spaces as well as social mirrors of creativity, must foster an inclusive environment in which people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs can assist in the prevention of discrimination and actively promote equality. 

The UP Museums take our commitment to equality and diversity seriously and are actively against any form of discrimination. Our services, operations and engagement efforts demonstrate a commitment to diversity and wider accessibility for all that is threaded throughout our curatorial plans and engagement schedules and promote full inclusion in our daily working practices that is a shared responsibility of all staff. 

Museums and the university community are invited to share their creative ideas, initiatives and digital content with #DiversityAndInclusion, #StayAtHome, and #MuseumFromHome digital initiatives and experiences on other social media platforms with the hashtag #IMD2020 to make this May 2020 a truly memorable one for the Covid-Archives.

- Author Nicole Hoffmann & Sian Tiley-Nel
Published by Nicole Hoffmann

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