Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion
May 15, 2020
We honor the Eklutna Dena'ina people upon whose traditional and rightful homeland the Anchorage Museum is situated. We recognize and respect the continuing stewardship and connection to the land by Alaska Native peoples and all Indigenous peoples.
We open our programs with land acknowledgement statements like the one above. The words “This is Dena’ina Ełnena” (Dena’ina homeland) are displayed prominently on the Anchorage Museum building façade. Land acknowledgements at the Anchorage Museum recognize Indigenous communities. Land acknowledgement is a first step. By beginning our programs with land acknowledgement, the museum invites conversation about diversity, equity, access and inclusion.
Inspired by the 2020 International Museum Day (May 18) theme - Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion – we present relevant resources you can explore from home. Achieving diversity and inclusion requires ongoing reflection, learning and growth. The resources offered here reflect some of the ways the museum is examining histories of inequity and inviting critical thinking, dialogue and change.
While a set of resources cannot fully encompass the complex challenge of shifting structures and systems that exclude people or groups or create access barriers, we hope these resources provide a starting point for examining these issues. We support conversations about how museums, including the Anchorage Museum, can offer multiple perspectives, provide more equitable access, and help foster inclusive society.
Audio Files Share Perspectives and Increase Access
Learn about the Anchorage Museum's collection through a series of short audio files called Perspectives: Celebration. Scholars, artists and culture bearers offer diverse viewpoints about a celebration-themed object or artwork. Descriptions of the object or artwork being discussed are woven into the Perspectives audio clips so listeners can imagine what the piece looks like. This benefits all listeners, but especially individuals with limited or no eyesight. Additional Audio/Visual Descriptions for selected artworks were made specifically for this audience. Each audio/visual recording shares information from the label text, followed by a detailed description of the visual art piece.
Videos Introduce Indigenous Language
Alaska’s spoken language diversity is rich and includes 20 Indigenous languages. Dena’ina has been spoken in Southcentral Alaska for at least 1,000 years. Dena’ina, like all Alaska Indigenous languages, was communicated orally until an alphabet was developed in the 1970s. Since then, many Dena’ina elders who speak at least one of the four Dena’ina dialects have worked closely with linguists to record the language for future generations to encourage a greater number of Dena’ina speakers. The Museum’s Dena'ina Word of the Week video series celebrates the Dena’ina language.
Lesson Plans for Educators
The museum has numerous resources for educators, including lessons examining the diversity of people – past and present– who call Alaska home. In the Alaska Salmon, Migration, and Immigration lesson, second grade and higher students analyze primary sources to learn how canneries have influenced Alaska Native land and harvesting rights and impacted human migration and immigration in Alaska. The Contemporary Identities resource includes a booklet for high school students and an accompanying teacher guide. The booklet highlights five contemporary artists with artwork in the Museum's collection who identify as part of a group or groups that are now or have been marginalized. Prompts ask students to reflect on personal identities and culture.
About International Museum Day
The 43rd International Museum Day is May 18, 2020. This day is organized by the International Council of Museums and is an opportunity for museums around the world to create events and activities around an annual theme that raises awareness of how museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples. In 2019, more than 55,000 museums participated in the event in 150 countries.