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Measuring inclusion – Principles

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For the purposes of our session this week, there are three key principles we wish to spotlight from the article cited in the previous step.

The first principle is sustainability. The decision by the museum to have the research and activities run over a four-year period is telling. This was not meant to be a short-term intervention or study. From the outset, the museum aimed at building sustainable programming for inclusion of the identified communities. This notion of sustainability in programming echoes throughout the article: sustainability of relationship building between VGM and youth with migrant histories; sustainability of the museum’s relevance in the lives of audiences; and sustainability of the institution. In fact, one of the end ‘products’ of the intensive research process was to build a business case for inclusion. Another often ignored or forgotten aspect to sustainable programming is ensuring budget and a long-term fiscal commitment to audiences. For communities who have experienced extractive research, trauma or exclusion, being ‘dropped’ because of lack of funding or follow-through can be damaging and reinforce suspicion and distrust.

The second principle is understanding that the internal, inner workings of the institution would have to change in order to address what the research would reveal. Questions posed throughout the research aimed to identify governance issues which serve as barriers to inclusion. The museum was aware that a greater amount of openness to new ideas and changing ways of working for the professional staff was needed. To cultivate this, the Human Resources policy and strategy for staffing and recruitment changed to become more representative.

The third principle is not to work ‘for’ new audiences, but to ‘work together with’ identified audiences. This principle is exemplified in the iterative, or trial-and-error, nature of the process embarked upon. There was an understanding that the groups identified as marginalised are not homogenous themselves. A think tank was created in order to ensure representativity across the diverse groups and to address inherent biases. Operationally, this worked by having the think tank engage with VGM staff every two months. The iterative nature of the approach lent itself to ‘learning by doing’. The think tank was also just one of the vehicles for consultation and feedback. A number of other interventions outlined in the article present careful shared planning across the museum functions. One example of the role of the think tank was to provide commentary on a proposed survey. The language and tone of the survey was written so as to invite participation and not serve as judgement.

Some concrete recommendations emerged from the study, as well as some areas for further study.

These three spotlighted principles drawn from the article serve as a useful lens to examine your own context and institution. In the next step we invite you to think about several questions and share your responses to help catalyse discussion and generate ideas among your peers.

References

Title: Measuring Inclusion in Museums: A Case Study on Cultural Engagement with Young People with a Migrant Background in Amsterdam Author(s): Marjelle Vermeulen, Filip Vermeylen, Karen Maas, Marthe De Vet, Martin Van Engel Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks, Common Ground Research Networks The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum Volume: 12 Issue: 2 February 20, 2019 ISSN: 1835-2014 (Print) ISSN: 1835-2022 (Online)

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