Museology Master of Arts Program

October 17, 2019

Healing historic wounds: inclusion in exhibits at state history museums

Thesis by Elaine Carter (2019)

The purpose of the study was to understand how exhibit-related staff at state history museums are addressing inclusion in their exhibits. The study focused on characterizing how the staff thought about and engaged with inclusion in their work, and the strategies they used to make their exhibits inclusive. Using a case study design, data were collected from 11 museum professionals at seven sites through semi-structured interviews and documents, including strategic plans, mission statements, inclusion-related documents, and exhibit descriptions. Findings suggest that generally staff agreed with the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM’s) definition of inclusion and looked to a variety of resources on inclusion. Inclusion was formalized at many sites as an institutional priority and exhibit-related inclusion work had increased at many sites. Being at a state museum influenced how exhibit-related staff thought about and engaged in inclusion work. Staff had conversations with each other about inclusion and sometimes related training as well. They felt that collaboration with external partners was a key strategy for making exhibits inclusive. Strategies for working with community members included balancing competing needs, equipping communities with museum tools, and having respectful dialogue. These results offer the museum field an understanding of how staff at a handful of state history museums are thinking about inclusion and the actions they are taking.

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Citation: 

Carter, E., & Luke, Jessica J. (2019). Healing historic wounds : Inclusion in exhibits at state history museums. Seattle]: University of Washington.