Movement to instill values of DEAI is a priority for Eiteljorg Museum
By Johanna M. Blume, curator of Western art history and culture, and 2023 co-chair of the Eiteljorg DEAI Council
In the midst of pandemic illness and worldwide systemic inequity and discrimination which came to a head in 2020, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and their allies increased their calls for equity. Institutions, including the Eiteljorg Museum, responded to these calls with statements of solidarity. In the wake of the influx of institutional anti-racist statements, public feedback showed that we at the Eiteljorg needed to substantiate our solidarity statement with direct action. As a museum with a mission to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the diverse arts, histories and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America, it is the Eiteljorg’s duty to enact changes that support equity within the institution, and in the broader museum profession.
As a first step, Eiteljorg Museum staff and board members established a Diversity Task Force in August 2020 with the initial goal of rewriting the institution’s Diversity Statement (last updated in 2004). Re-envisioned as a “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI),” the statement was published in January 2021, and now is part of the Eiteljorg Museum’s larger DEAI Plan. In fall 2021, the Diversity Task Force formally became the DEAI Council, a standing council of the museum’s Board of Directors with an official charge and charter. This cemented an institutional commitment to the work and values of the council, ensuring its sustainability and accountability well into the future.
An ongoing effort
Since January 2021, the DEAI Council has developed the museum’s new DEAI Strategy, a process that involved input from the Eiteljorg’s various community stakeholders and constituencies, as well as the Board of Directors, staff and volunteers. Finalized in November 2022, the plan establishes concrete goals for how the museum will center diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion in activities across the museum. This includes things such as volunteer and staff recruitment and training, the selection of public programs and exhibitions, and marketing and engagement with business enterprises and vendors. The DEAI Strategy has been incorporated into the Eiteljorg’s larger five-year strategic plan, which the board adopted in its entirety in January 2023. The museum thanks all the members of the DEAI Council, past and present, including 2022 co-chairs Jasmin French and Madison Hincks, for all their efforts in drafting the plan. New co-chairs of the DEAI Council in 2023 are Amanda Rail and Johanna M. Blume.
Some readers of Storyteller magazine might have participated in DEAI trainings at their own workplaces, as the concept increasingly is embraced by private-sector corporations. For its part, the Eiteljorg seeks to make DEAI an ongoing form of workplace training; and it engaged a nationally regarded expert in museum diversity efforts, Cecile Shellman, to lead trainings of staff, the board and volunteers. To read the Eiteljorg’s Commitment to Diversity and DEAI Strategy, visit the website, Eiteljorg.org/our-story.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Storyteller magazine.