What it means

The below definition of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is from the Ford Foundation and the definition of Accessibility is an excerpt cited from Facing Change, a 2018 report on the insights of the American Alliance of Museums’ Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Working Group.

Diversity is the representation of all our varied individual and collective identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.). We proactively seek out and engage with a variety of perspectives because we believe we can only advance justice when we affirm our similarities and understand and find value in our differences.

Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all. We believe achieving equity is only possible in an environment built on respect and dignity.

Accessibility is giving equitable access to everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience. Accessibility encompasses the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how organizations make space for the characteristics that each person brings.

Inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people. We believe every person’s voice adds value, and we strive to create balance in the face of power differences. We believe that no one person can or should be called upon to represent an entire community.

How it’s used

DEAI is an ongoing actionable commitment and process that needs to be woven into an institution’s core framework—from mission and vision to content and operations. DEAI is a core tenet of museum work. Some examples of how DEAI principles are applied across the museum include hiring and training practices at all levels that help an organization better reflect the community it serves in its staffing and leadership; developing programs and partnerships that welcome audiences at the widest spectrum; and communicating in a way that engages audiences of different social, economic, educational, and religious backgrounds.

Organizations are accountable to our communities and DEAI is a key metric by which we measure the success of our work. DEAI efforts should be recognizable and holistic, applied to every activity of the museum (e.g., audience engagement, programs, vendors, employment, marketing, and collecting). Each organization should develop standards of excellence for its DEAI work, including practices such as a “nothing about us without us” methodology.

Why it matters

The DEAI framework enriches and enlivens the work of museums, ensuring their sustainability and long-term relevance. We, as museum professionals, must hold ourselves accountable as we reap the benefits and face the challenges of putting DEAI principles into practice.

Museums are engaged in an ever-evolving process of building trust, especially with historically marginalized groups as we engage with audiences, serving as stewards of collections and thought leaders of art, history, and education but also as catalysts of social and cultural progress. As we tell the stories of people and cultures across the globe, we commit to raising their impact and influence across human history, especially those of non-dominant groups who are often underrepresented or erased from the narrative.

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