IMD2020 Think Piece by Thanh Sinden, Museum Detox

We know that the impact of Covid-19 on the sector is huge, and that we face a lot of unknowns in the months ahead. Inequality that existed across class, ethnicity, gender, disability and age before is now further compounded by the health crisis and accompanying economic fallout. The commitment of our sector in progressing diversity and inclusion needs even more attention as we navigate what this ‘new normal’ for the sector will need to be and can be. The question is: will museums seize the positives and progressive facilitation a Covid-world brings to transform, or will it choose, through survival responses to a crisis, to revert back to old practices?

Change is incremental yet requires diligence; urgency; commitment to goals. What will it say about museums’ relevance and values if diversity and inclusion goals drop off the agenda in the coming months or years? My concern is that any positive signs of progress made in the sector around diversity, inclusion and the fight for equity will be stopped and hijacked by resistance through the guise of sustainability, or the confusion that survival means ‘losing’ diversity and sticking to what we know. In times like this we have great potential to embrace opportunities that lead to innovation, and these innovations need to be linked to purposeful goals of progress in order to be useful.

I think museums need to be mindful that during this time of quick thinking and quick actions, which are absolutely necessary, they do the slow thinking; the tracking and reflecting too.

  1. What have been the immediate responses to the situation: do they have potential to change our practices, leading to positive transformation?
  2. What have we had to stop because of the situation: do we need these practices going forward for positive transformation?

If the answers lead you further away from diversity and inclusion goals then think again. We are in a world where our social forms of connecting are challenging and meeting places for strangers more limited. Safe spaces have literal implications for health, as well as for feeling a sense of belonging and value. These are all challenges and opportunities. Will museums see this as a way to do things differently? I very much hope so.