Inaction is an Action: #MuseumsResist is a better One

thanks to Robin Cembalest for the photo

I had the extreme pleasure of being part of this year’s MuseumCamp hosted by Nina Simon at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. For those who are unaware of this program, it’s sort of a hybrid museum conference, personal growth program, and summer camp smushed into three days. Intense would be a useful descriptor. Useful, impactful, and thought-provoking also work.

This Monday morning, after such wonderful experiences with people from around the world in the cossetted kooky culture of Santa Cruz, I had hoped to create a blog post from my MuseumCamp notes. Instead, my heart feels exhausted. I wanted to share some of the hope a community of change-makers felt. Instead, my brain is misfiring. I wanted to pass on useful advice to colleagues who couldn’t be in Santa Cruz. Instead, my soul needs rest.

Why? Well, because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In this case, for all the changemakers aimed at an inclusive society, there are those who want exclusion. There are those who fear more people at the table will mean less space for them. There are those who only feel full when others are starving.

If you do not know me personally, I have made my life, career, being, on being an active participant. You tell a funny story—I laugh. You ask for a volunteer—my hand is up. You need some help—I will be there. Why? Because inaction is a much less fun choice than action.

As I said, though, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You can choose your opposite reaction or not. If you don’t react to negativity, you are still acting. Your lack of action is still a reaction. So, when you see evil, when you see people actively fighting inclusion, and you decide it might be too political to act, you are being political in your inaction.

Today, everyone in America woke up in a country where people spouted hate publicly and proudly. Today in America, we saw the emblems of enemies past parading in the streets of one of the nation’s best college. Today in America, we remembered that our own worst enemies are our own neighbors.

What does this have to do with museums? Museums are the best of our nation, even literally, holding our national heritage for eternity. Museums are ideas. They are hope. When the best of our nation doesn’t do anything, then they are choosing—and they are making the wrong choice. There is a simple binary: chosen action (1) or choosing inaction (0).

How can museums react?

  • Staff can be allowed time to share their feelings together
  • Staff can raise money for organizations that support inclusion (Bake sale, anyone)
  • Staff can reach out to colleagues in Charlottesville with unencumbered, unquestioning support
  • Museums can host conversations for visitors
  • Museums share their stories of colonialism and inclusion as a model for growth (History isn’t erased any more than hard drives; bits always exist)
  • Museums can model inclusion in their programming
  • Museums can work together in regions to create safe spaces for inclusion

Do what is your museums doing? Let’s grow this list until every museum has something they can check off. After all, action is so much more fun.

Also, check this post out on Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 ; similar to this but with a different picture of me.

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