UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

A graduate conservation training program focusing on the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials

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Righting the Wrong: How Cultural Heritage Organizations Can Hold Themselves Accountable and Encourage Diversity in the Field

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Image Credit:  June 4th New Yorker Daily Cartoon by Victor Varnado 

Our post yesterday described how the current standards for entry into the cultural heritage field present a great obstacle to increasing diversity and listed some actions that can be taken to curtail the cycle of homogenous demographics in the field. But how can we make the environments that young professionals enter into – the ones occupied by current professionals – more inviting and inclusive?

This issue has been on the radar of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) for some time, and in 2018 the AIC board voted to approve the Equity and Inclusion Working Group (EIWG) report, Recommendations for Advancing Equity and Inclusion in the American Institute for Conservation. This report outlined the past efforts of the organization to promote inclusivity, described the current state of affairs, and presented ongoing initiatives to increase diversity, all of which were supported by case studies and interviews. It should be noted that while the report focused on working towards more race and cultural diversity, it acknowledged the importance of promoting intersectionality and made clear that although some initiatives may be “completed” the work must be ongoing to ensure that policies and educational tools are put into place. The report defined four targets for the organization:

  1. Develop Internal Engagement and Education Resources
  2. Increase Advocacy and Partnerships with Allied and International Professionals
  3. Enhance Recruitment, Growth, and Retention Practices
  4. Ensure Sustainability of Efforts

These were followed by methods to meet these goals and guidelines to measure success. AIC also established the Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) as a board-appointed committee. The group recently shared its five-year plan to begin implementing change. 

The actions of AIC are of great importance to us as students of conservation because they reflect the perspective of the greater field in which we aspire to work and contribute. However, we are also interested in how other professional fields within the cultural heritage sector approach issues of inclusion. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) established its own working group on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) in 2018. They put together a similar document outlining the state of American Museums and actions that can improve representation and foster an inclusive working environment. This report identified five key components of effective DEAI work: 

  1. Every museum professional must do personal work to face their unconscious bias 
  2. Debate on definitions must not hinder progress 
  3. Inclusion is central to the effectiveness and sustainability of museums
  4. Systemic change is vital to long-term, genuine progress 
  5. Empowered, inclusive leadership is essential at all levels of an organization

These five insights were followed with a call for museums to take action. The important considerations museums must take into account concerning their internal structures should reflect an active goal of developing and maintaining inclusivity at all levels. In addition, the AAM recently shared a virtual session on the role of the museum field in combating racism. The video and transcript can be found here.

Recognizing the need for additional internal reflection, Ithaka S+R, the Mellon Foundation, and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) partnered to conduct a series of interviews and reviews of 20 case studies, focusing on museums identified in the 2015 Mellon Survey as having culturally and racially diverse leadership. The conclusions and recommendations from this work can be found here, and take into consideration both internal (employee) and external (patron/target audience) avenues for improvement. They advocate for many changes, including broadening job qualifications to attract different ways of thinking, increasing institutional transparency for both employees and visitors, and empowering education by hiring diverse museum educators that can engage with visitors through their own personal experiences.

AIC is actively encouraging the much-needed discussions surrounding these issues and is holding a webinar on June 16th as part of its “Conservation: Together at Home Webinar Series” entitled “Conservation is not Neutral (and neither are we).” You can register here.

#conservation #museums #culturalheritage #diversity #inclusivity #workplaceculture #accountability

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Paying to Learn: How Unpaid Internships Perpetuate Inequity in the Cultural Heritage Field

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Image Credit: https://thevarsity.ca/2014/06/11/announced-federal-plan-on-unpaid-internships-will-do-little-to-solve-the-problem/?fbclid=IwAR1vAQdRhG_iQCoje18yCFyxuDudjdMyPQOLLJ_pqXEwO_4EHmtXHREQSiA 

Like many other fields, entrance into the cultural heritage sector is generally dependent on a combination of education, training, and experience. Prospective students and recent graduates often must rely on internships and volunteer work to accrue the networks and necessary on-site experience to qualify them for jobs or positions in graduate programs designed for higher-level training.

However, research conducted by Intern Bridge has shown that of the available internships for the social sciences or arts and humanities, only 34% and 43% are paid internships, respectively. This means that the vast majority of opportunities are without financial support, making them volunteer positions. With internships being such an integral step into a career in this sector, we must understand how these opportunities can instead act as barriers to diversity and inclusion.

It is important to remember the fact that an internship with no pay does not mean that it also has no cost. An article by Money estimated the costs of an average summer internship at approximately $6,200 including food, housing, transportation, relocation, and other expenses (this number may vary depending on location). Additionally, though some unpaid opportunities offer university credit as “compensation,” students on internships may not be enrolled in enough credits to be eligible as full-time students, potentially impacting the requirements of a financial aid package (if they were able to receive financial aid in the first place). Recent graduates who have already completed their degrees have no need for these credits. Moreover, some universities will actually charge students a fee or percentage of tuition to remain enrolled as a student if they are not on campus, as indicated by a report by Demos.

These financial factors compound to create an almost insurmountable barrier for students and individuals from low-income backgrounds. And this hurdle, in turn, perpetuates the racial homogeneity of the cultural heritage field, as research from 2013 has found that working families headed by racial/ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be low-income as their white counterparts (additional Pew Research Center report found here). Therefore, to become a more inclusive and diverse field, we must address these fundamental blocks.

As we all move forward, we can begin by referencing some successful efforts being made to increase diversity in the cultural heritage field, and conservation in particular. The Andrew W. Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation provides opportunities and support for students and recent graduates of underrepresented minorities in conservation. Many universities and institutions have utilized Mellon grants to fund internships and fellowships targeted towards increasing diversity, including UCLA/ GettyIn 2018, the Association of Art Museum Directors instituted a Paid College Internship program for minority college students. Just this week, the Association of African American Museums announced a new fellowship for African Americans in the cultural sector to provide learning, job experience, and placement for Black Americans aspiring to cultural leadership. 


#awareness #culturalheritage #internships #unpaidisunfair #equalopportunity 

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The Current State of Diversity in the Cultural Heritage Field

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If our museums are to speak to and for our communities, they will need to reflect those communities. As of now, they do not. 
In 2015, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation commissioned a demographic survey of 643 art museums across North America. Among their findings was the observation that 84% of jobs most closely associated with the intellectual and educational missions of museums (e.g. curators, conservators, educators, and museum executives) were held by Non-Hispanic White individuals. Only 4% of those positions were held by Black individuals (according to the U.S. Census, 12% of the U.S. identified as Black/ African American that year). They also found that the percentage of historically underrepresented minorities in these positions did not significantly change across age cohorts, implying that this lack of diversity is not being overcome by new generations, even though the demographics of our general population are shifting. While a more recent demographic survey conducted in 2018 notes that there has been a 5% increase in the hiring of people of color to intellectual leadership positions since the initial survey, there is still a long road ahead before our field is fully representative of its communities.
What stories are not being told in our museums because we are missing the key storytellers?

To begin to understand what the lack of diversity can mean to black individuals working in the cultural heritage field we turn our metaphorical mic over to Ashleigh Brown, owner of the private conservation studio, The Conservators Ltd, and highly recommend readers take a few minutes to read her reflections. Although working in the UK, Ashleigh is a US citizen who grew up in Virginia. A recent post in ICON reflects on her experience of being black in the arts and cultural heritage field. Ashleigh is just one of a handful of black conservators in the UK, where black people make up just 1% of the workforce in the arts and cultural sector. A more detailed look at the demographic makeup of the UK field can be found in this 2013 equity and diversity report by Consilium.

#diversity #transparency #museums

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Let’s Talk About Race (With Kids!)


No one is born racist. But bias can become ingrained in us, even from a very young age, as we consume media and social contexts (even subconsciously!) that teach and reinforce racist stereotypes. 

As much as we may want to shield our youth from upsetting topics, how we respond to children’s curiosity about the protests now can impact how children see and understand race and inequality in the future. As Candra Flanagan, director of teaching and learning for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) notes:

“This moment in time provides people with an opportunity. Adults might want to turn off the TV or be silent. But kids are getting their information and understanding from other places. It makes it that much more important to have these conversations so they aren’t getting outside messages different from what [parents] want them to have.” 

So where can we start?

1. National Geographic’s recent post, Talking to kids about race, is a must-read for parents, educators, and anyone in a position to influence our next generations. Experts weigh in on the importance of having conversations with kids (even from a young age) about race and racism and provide some strategies for how to begin these often difficult conversations. 

2. Even though we shared it in our last post, we’re going to share it again, because it’s just that great a resource. Talking About Race, created by the National Museum of African American history and Culture (NMAAHC) provides tools and guidance for how to talk about race in both historical and cultural contexts. They provide tools for educators, parents, and individual learners.  

3. Embrace Race is a multiracial community of parents, teachers, and experts and a resource tool bank designed to meet the challenge of raising children in a world where race matters. 

4. The anti-defamation league has partnered with a wide variety of educators and experts to create anti-bias education tools and strategies geared to specific age-ranges, from educational materials that can be incorporated into k-12 curricula to Table Talk strategies for having conversations about topical news stories.  

5. For older children and teens, the 1619 Project is an engaging digital exhibition that re-frames the history of the United States by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. This ongoing initiative was created by the New York Times to mark the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. To take learning from the 1619 Project further, you can use the Pulitzer Center’s 1619 Project Curriculum, which includes reading guides and engagement activities. 

6. Teaching Tolerance, a project by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has educator resource packages for teaching about race, racism, and police violence. 

7. The Los Angeles Unified School District has shared an extensive list of resources on community unrest, justice, and support, valuable for parents and teachers across the country (and even the world.) 

#education #lovenothate #blacklivesmatter #blackedu

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Let’s Talk About Race




Understanding racism in our country is an essential step in the effort to create a more equitable, safe world for all of us, but especially our black/ African- American community members. 

Join us as we take time to learn more about how race has shaped our country and continues to affect us today. 

Here are some great resources to get started: 

1. With so many great resources out there, it’s easier to feel overwhelmed knowing where to start. We’d recommend starting here. This phenomenal resource, Talking About Race, created by the National Museum of African American history and Culture (NMAAHC) provides tools and guidance for how to talk about race in both historical and cultural contexts. They provide tools for educators, parents, and individual learners.  

2. We know many of you miss visiting museums in person as much as we do right now, but whether you are visiting online or in person, museums are wonderful places to learn more about history. To find museums near you focused on Black/ African-American History, check out this directory, created by the Association of African American Museums. 

3. As James Baldwin said, “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” To hear individual stories about African American experiences, visit the National Park Service’s African American Heritage Stories page.

4. For an exhaustive list of anti-racism resources, including books, television shows, podcasts, and articles to learn more about anti-racism see this compilation, created by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.

5. Like most of you reading this, we’re having trouble watching the news and trying to understand how the police — groups sworn to protect and serve us — can justify violent, racist actions.  For some perspective on how police see race, we recommended starting with this Analysis of a 2016 Pew Research Center Survey by FiveThirtyEight. 

6. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, we recommend taking a look at these schedules compiled by Autumn Gupta and Bryanna Wallace. These schedules are separated into 10, 25, or 45 min daily and weekly engagements containing articles, podcasts, videos, or actions you can fit into any daily routine. 


#BlackLivesMatter #learn #NMAAHC 


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We want to be actively supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and organizations that support racial equality. Where can we start?


donateEducateSuportThe following list highlights immediate ways we can support the Black Lives Matter movement and organizations working for racial equality.

1. Ways to Help, the official Black Lives Matter action list, includes donation links, information for protestors, and petitions

2.  This Google Document by @botanicaldyke is an extensive resource, containing links to community bail funds, memorial funds, political education resources, and organizations to put on your radar, as well as general advice/tips for people attending protests or using social media as an organizing tool.

3. Campaign Zero advocates for data-driven solutions to end police violence. To learn more about city-specific policies right for your community that can decrease police brutality, check out Campaign Zero’s 8 Can’t Wait project.

4. Support your local Black Heritage societies and museum! These institutions are repositories of Black history and are often responsible for the preservation of, maintenance on, and education about African American historical sites. For a list of museums, check out the ’ The Association of African American Museums Directory. We’ve created a Google Document that has a list of Black Heritage societies by state, but there may be others in your area.

5. Support your local black communities! Buy from black-owned businesses, restaurants, and artists. For our own Los Angeles community, consider ordering out from some of the restaurants listed in this Google Document created by Kat Hong!  To find black-owned businesses in your area, here is a list of resources by Refinery29.

#vision #Blacklivesmatter #8Caintwait