When funding is secured, there are a number of activities we have outlined that will kick-off MuseDI and will ensure its impact on museum professionals and the wider museum world.
Convene Methodology & Practice Group (M&P Group) – The Abbe will contract a group of consultants, advisors, and an evaluator who will work closely with Abbe team members to guide the development of MuseDI. Consultants will be expected to engage in research and writing while the advisors will have less of a “hands-on” role and will offer museum/work experience and Native consultation. The Group will convene in person in the spring of 2018, work independently through the summer, and meet by teleconference in the fall of 2018 to finalize MuseDI structure, curriculum, and faculty. They will continue to meet by teleconference and meet in person in spring 2019 to evaluate MuseDI feedback, make necessary changes, and develop new materials as needed.
Evaluation – Simultaneously with the M&P Group convening, the project manager will retain an evaluator for the project, with input from the Group members. In late 2017, we will start to develop an evaluation plan and schedule assessment points for the project’s duration. The first workshop class in Bar Harbor will be asked to participate in our evaluation plan and help inform future evaluative measures. The plan will also identify performance measurements to be taken.
Assessment tool – The M&P Group will create as a deliverable a free, easy-to-use tool that museum professionals can use to assess their commitment to decolonizing museum practice. This will likely be an online survey tool that will generate results that museum workers can use to make a case for training and internal transformation.
Workshop – We are planning to design a two-day winter workshop in Bar Harbor that will use the Abbe as a learning lab and classroom space. The first one will be held in 2018 and will serve as a pilot, with participants fully funded (travel, meals, lodging, tuition) to attend. Research indicates that museum professionals would appreciate this type of training structure and we believe that the content requires at least two days of study. We also believe this extended time will help build a cohort of learners who will continue to collaborate after the workshop. Gradually, these cohorts will grow into a community of practice that the field can look for examples and motivation. Workshop content will be led by three to five faculty members who are Native and non-Native and the information will be delivered through discussion and lecture, co-learning activities, and lab practicum. We will likely limit the participant list to 15-20.
Webinars – Using an appropriate webinar application or software, we will host and lead two to three webinars per year. The purpose of the webinar format is to attract museum workers to decolonization and to re-engage learning cohorts. Topics may include example protocols, reading discussions, and guest speakers. Our goal is to attract 30-40 participants per webinar and we will record them for future access.
On-site training – As requested, Abbe staff and/or MuseDI faculty will travel to other museums and museum-related organizations to work with trustees and staff. Customized for the organization and the audience, training will likely focus on why museums need to decolonize and how to get started. This is already a high demand program that the Abbe is responding to, with one on-site training already completed (National Park Service-Chesapeake Region) and several requests pending including The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. With the support of the M&P Group and ample time to plan, we’d like to embed these training with methodology and expand our staff capacity to support and deliver these programs.
Train-the-trainer curriculum – After the pilot workshop is complete, the M&P Group will design curriculum to help past participants return to their organizations and train their colleagues in decolonizing museum practice. Decolonization is usually a difficult conversation to have with individuals who are new to the concept and may be struggling to understand the need. Using a combination of dialogue facilitation methodology and core concepts, this curriculum will empower cohort members and promote lasting change in their organizations.
Community of practice and methodology – Perhaps the best measurement of success, after at least five years of consistent MuseDI training opportunities and engagement from the museum field, will be an active community of practice. Using a common methodology, practitioners will change their respective museums to include decolonizing practice, they will present regularly at conferences, and their experience in decolonizing methodology will be a coveted skill set for employers. And, most importantly, the number of Native museum workers will begin to increase.
There are three performance goals identified for MuseDI:
- Train and develop museum professionals – The number of organizations using the assessment tool will be our first data point. Tracking those users as they begin to engage in our webinars, workshops, and/or on-site training will be a second data point. Throughout this process, a robust evaluation plan will be in motion, collecting more finite learning results and data points, but we anticipate a third data point is around the changes participants make at their institutions within the first 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and beyond.
- Support communities of practice – Creating a community of practice is one of the primary goals of MuseDI and when participants share their work with colleagues and the larger museum field, we will consider this a positive performance measurement.
- Develop and provide inclusive and accessible learning opportunities – When decolonizing museum practices are implemented, inclusion is the net result. There are many reasons why the museum workforce is predominantly white, but as decolonization is normalized in the field, communities of color will likely find museum workplaces more welcoming and equitable. Decolonization is indicative of an organization committed to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.
It should also be noted that Abbe staff is regularly asked to publish about our decolonization initiative. As MuseDI launches, performance measures will be included in future articles. We will continue to be a regular session presenter at museum and history conferences, sharing our work and the outcomes of MuseDI. We will also dedicate website space to promote the program and our results to date. Most effectively will be the word of past participants and we will endeavor to keep them plugged into MuseDI after they complete the workshop so we can hear of changes they are making and share those changes with the larger community of practice and the museum field. We anticipate MuseDI will spur a conversation that is aware of the long game; decolonization is a process that is not resolved overnight and is not without challenge and difficulty. Communication among and between practitioners will be critical to the success of MuseDI.
Ultimately, we are planning for these results:
- Decolonizing museums will be less painful sites for Native people.
- Decolonizing strategies (collaboration, privileging Indigenous perspective, and truth-telling) will serve as a model for other inclusive museum practices.
- Communities of color will find the structure of museum decolonization useful for other content areas, i.e. African American history, immigration narratives, etc.
- Museum professionals with decolonizing museum experience will be recruited by employers.
- Museum best practices and standards will be revised and updated to include decolonizing practice.
- The term decolonization will be regular museum jargon.
And for our audiences, we have many hopes and intentions:
- Museum professionals will actively work to be more inclusive in all of their practices.
- A community of practice will not only support its participants but will also empower them to teach their colleagues about decolonizing museum practice.
- Museum professionals will recognize when and where a decolonizing practice should be in place.
- MuseDI participants will move from consultation to collaboration in their work with Indigenous and other descendant and stakeholder communities.
- Museum professionals will see decolonizing frameworks as essential to their work, rather than an option or an added burden to successful project implementation.
- Participants will reach a high level of cultural competency in regards to Indigenous history, culture, and current issues as it relates to their work.
Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko is the President and CEO of the Abbe Museum. Working in museums for more than twenty years, she believes they have the power to change lives, inspire movements, and challenge authority. A museum director since 2001, Cinnamon is a frequent presenter at national museum meetings and is often asked to comment on national museum issues. She has been the driving force behind the Abbe Museum’s decolonization initiative, working with the Native communities in Maine to develop policies and protocols to ensure collaboration and cooperation with Wabanaki people. In 2016 Cinnamon gave her first TEDx talk, We Must Decolonize Our Museums. She’s the author of Museum Administration 2.0 (2016), The Art of Healing: The Wishard Art Collection (2004), and co-editor of the Small Museum Toolkit (2012).