With the International Museum Day 2020 less than a week, the International Council of Museums, ICOM, has announced that the day will be devoted to “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”.
The event which is slated for May 18, 2020 will take the shape of digital activities to promote the values of IMD while ensuring the safety of the public and staff alike as the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdowns imposed in many countries continue to bite harder.
According to a statement from the ICOM, the event aims to become a rallying point to both celebrate the diversity of perspectives that make up the communities and personnel of museums, and champion tools for identifying and overcoming bias in what they display and the stories they tell.
“Following the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdowns, we decided to adapt and focus on digital activities, to promote the values of IMD while ensuring the safety of the public and staff alike” the statement reads in part.
ICOM has however called on participants to organize their on-site activities between November 14 and 16, 2020 while focusing on activities that can be developed to reach the target public.
“How can museums ensure diversity and inclusion in their digital activities, exploiting the potential of the web? We already drafted a list of possible activities that museums can develop to reach their public remotely, but we should also focus on the “inclusive” part of these long-distance practices. As we have seen, museum directors and curators have long started to narrate their collections themselves: initiatives such as “Ask a curator” or “Le passeggiate Del Direttore” (The Director’s walks) recently promoted by the Egyptian Museum of Turin, are useful tools to give a personal touch to your digital activities. But what about the other, more discreet but fundamental, voices that make up a museum? Why not involve your entire staff, to talk about your collections or just about what is going on in the world right now? Or your visitors and volunteers, asking them what led them to love your institution, what made them feel included? To give you a contemporary example, the Museum of Ordinary People is inviting audiences to share their own experiences of life in the coronavirus crisis” the statement read.
ICOM also advised that there should be targeted demography while focusing on the medium that can be used to each of them.
“As we suggest in our step by step guide for organising IMD activities, we recommend you to target a specific public/demographic (such as children, senior citizens, a minority, etc.). Among many others, San Francisco’s Exploratorium is offering online activities to help kids understand the science behind viruses and how we can protect ourselves against infection. But the forced isolation and lockdowns can affect fragile categories the most: think about older people for example, and the effects of fear and self-isolation on their overall wellbeing. The Baring foundation collected a list of great examples of activities that you can promote for the elderly or in partnership with care homes.
Once you’ve chosen your target audience, you should consider how to reach them: which channels and languages do you public use? The digital possibilities are endless but remember that social media are not a synonym for accessibility. To reach your audience at a distance, why not consider radio broadcasts (remember museum podcasts?): the monumental “A history of the World” project by The British Museum comes to mind, but why not partnering with smaller, local partners? Or what about a miracle hotline to allow your audience to call you directly on the phone? Finally, the One Letter, One Smile initiative is connecting people who want to write a letter to the elderly currently on lockdown across France and Belgium, why not encourage your communities to send museum postcards to each other?
ICOM also emphasised on content that should be relevant to the audience and consistent with the medium.
“Is it relevant to the audience and consistent with the medium? What is your goal: to tell a story, to amuse, to raise doubts? To engage your audiences you should not just talk about objects, but about connections: what do your collections mean for who is listening? Are they relevant to them? As a general recommendation, encourage your audiences to engage with your collections” the statement added.