A Proposed Model: Early Engagement of BIPOC Youth For Future Careers in Museums & Cultural Heritage

Girl in Pink Shirt Holding Notebook

There are many ways to address the lack of representation and equity in museum and cultural heritage organizations. Hiring is ONLY one way to change the ratios yet other pathways are possible. Exploring them requires forethought in strategic planning and a commitment to taking action.

The path I’d like to explore today is starting early, long before the career pipeline narrows and pre-existing issues like racism and discrimination make it difficult.

What would it look like if ‘recruitment’ happened much earlier, say middle school and through high school? What if, in addition to increasing numbers through employment, museums, cultural heritage organizations, alliances (in consultation with youth councils) came together to develop coaching-mentoring based recruitment models? What if in this phase, opportunities were created for internships, cementing learning and creating pathways for post-secondary placements?

Here are a few things I’m thinking of, for a target audience beginning in grade 6 and continuing to the end of high school

1. Creating awareness of museology, roles and possible pathways

  • How - an illustration as part of an accessible site showing key museum functions, general skills, subjects they might take in high school, options for studies (school listings), future job opportunities and possible pathways

  • What? The information on the site would be expanded on with museology being discussed in art classes, literature, mathematics, in fact many aspects of the existing curriculum could have museum work included by way of questioning/ inquiry. The goal is to expand the definition and consideration of what museums are

  • Who would be involved? It would require partnerships and collaboration between schools (middle, high, colleges, university), a network of coaches and mentors, including current museum students, youth councils and more

  • When? This is not a short-term plan, think of it like a clinical trial that sometimes takes years

  • Considerations. Collating information on schools with museum studies, thinking of fits between middle school curricula and areas to anchor some of these questions in, setting up processes, seeing which museums are interested in adding this to their strategic plans, etc.

Proposal - create a site for basic museum education

2. Needs Assessment Through a Survey

Non-represented people are interested in museums studies but its current presentation is exclusive. Could a survey help provide awareness, clarity? What would they like? What support do they need and critically, what knowledge is missing to help them on the journey?

Proposal - Through an online, permanent survey, shared widely, we conduct a needs assessment to find out more about what BIPOC students need, what they are and aren’t interested in. What they would like to see?

These are early thoughts milling in my head. They still need some work but I'd love to work with museums to flesh this out and develop a pilot

How does one develop this program to get younger BIPOC people conversant with museums early enough to support curiosity and future entry into the museum and cultural heritage space?

What do you think? Are there programs I could check out that have parallels here?

This week I graduate from my Museum and Cultural Management Program at Centennial College, Toronto. It’s been an interesting journey over the last year.

When I started the program, I had no idea about the history of the subject area and the practice. One of the early tasks we had included watching this TED video. Short and sweet, it made me think of how much museology - largely unarticulated - played a role in my childhood - I mean, we had a cabinet of curiosities where my mum and dad kept all their travel mementoes. I didn’t have the framework or language to understand it then, but I do now.

Why do we have museums? - J. V. Maranto

Tools and resources like this can help as we begin to widen the view for Peoples of Colour.

Please share any thoughts, ideas, approaches I might adopt as I craft proposals for the future. Thank you

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