Diversity and the museum
In the instructions to the agency accompanying the government appropriation for 2014, the Swedish Exhibition Agency was charged with three new tasks. One of these was: ‘based on global intelligence and surveys, to show how the museum sector can develop and make use of the development potential of multicultural Sweden’. The Swedish Exhibition Agency can now present its report entitled ‘Diversity and the museum’ written by Eric Fugeläng, Head of Communications and Analytics at the agency.
The report includes an analysis of multicultural Sweden, a study of methods and fundamental concepts, and a section devoted to concrete proposals.
There is much that can be improved in our museums, the report concludes. And this is not just a matter of what museums present, but also of how the material is portrayed and by whom. ‘A museum for everyone needs to make room for a diversity of narratives based on a diversity of perspectives’ as the report summarizes the issue.
But the report also proposes that the political directives pertaining to diversity should be made clearer and, as an example, it quotes the Arts Council in the UK which has threatened to withdraw funding from museums that do not meet criteria for diversity.
As regards cultural institutions in Sweden there is anxiety about not being able to afford diversity. But the alternative of just continuing as usual will not lead to change. Politicians and museums need to agree on introducing diversity into their daily activities – and not just undertaking separate diversity projects. This is a matter of questioning every aspect of the museum’s operations from recruitment to public events. Or, to travesty Albert Einstein: ‘The museums that we have created are also a process of our thinking and they cannot be changed without changing our thinking’.
The report also notes that, among certain groups, there is a sense of disappointment that change is so slow and a belief that the lack of diversity is more a matter of unwillingness to change than a matter of resources.
The report is based on a study of statistics, existing research and reports as well as discussions and in-depth interviews with museum directors, scholars, critics, lawyers, immigrants, activists, recruitment experts, racified people and artists.
Download the entire report via the link above right.
Order the print version of the report here.