The National EMP Network (NEMPN) is dedicated to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion (DEAI) in the museum field and beyond. We strive to include the voices of and welcome diverse populations of culture, race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic class, gender identity and expression, sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, disability, religion, citizenship status, age, and experience in the museum profession. When NEMPN uses the strengths and different perspectives that each person offers we feel we are in a better position to serve emerging museum professionals.
NEMPN acknowledges that in order to realize a more just world, progress must center DEAI in principle, implementation, and continued action at every level. Our commitment doesn’t start with this statement and it certainly doesn’t end with it. This commitment to internal and external systemic progress is impossible if it is not also reflected in our leadership structures – not only in the upper management of museums but in our museum associations and professional development networks, including NEMPN. Therefore, we will also continuously look inward and address how all systemic inequity including, but not limited to xenophobia, racism, transphobia, whiteness, colonialism, patriarchy, classism, and ableism play out in our field.
With our most recent board transition in 2020 we are examining our leadership and chapter structures and promise to be more transparent through our community Town Halls, board committees, and other initiatives. We are also actively implementing new ways to share and distribute leadership, to lift up marginalized voices in our field, center BIPOC EMPs, and listen to the needs of our community. Part of this process involves knowing who makes up NEMPN now, who is missing from that picture, and why they have been unwelcome. Our Community Committee is in the process of gathering this data from the membership. This kind of data will help us to be a better resource and to implement change to suit community needs.
We also want to emphasize that an organization committed to DEAI work must also reflect upon and shift its mission, vision, and values away from white supremacy and all systemic injustices and failures present in the museum field. NEMPN is deep in this process to make sure our organizational values align with our community’s values and are all centered around greater inclusivity in every sense. We understand it is of utmost importance to use the abilities and insight of all EMPs to create anew, for as Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house.”
NEMPN recognizes that we reside on the stolen lands of Indigenous peoples. We recognize our own hegemony of whiteness, and that of the museum field, as the consequence of settler colonialism. In response, we will seek change by actively listening and incorporating the many calls to action from our community of Indigenous EMPs and collectives, such as Decolonize This Place. To learn more about what lands you are on, you can check out this great map. We also hope everyone will seek to learn more about land acknowledgments, and what steps we can take to go beyond a performative action and actively work to undo Indigenous erasure.
As we gather these words, we are reminded daily of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and its exacerbation of the ongoing public health crisis that is racism. Simultaneously, it is EMP positions such as guest services, admissions, food service, retail and education – those predominantly held by BIPOC museum staff – who have been particularly hard hit by furloughs and layoffs. The museum field can be a hazardous environment for aspiring and emerging professionals who are BIPOC, undocumented, disabled, trans, and working class folks. This disadvantageous culture for EMPs is also maintained by unpaid internships; while seen as ‘paying your dues’ or ‘rights of passage,’ such systems create inaccessibility and instability for those who cannot afford to work for free or for unlivable wages. We will work collectively to remove roadblocks and to support our community members by aligning with fellow collectives such as Museum Workers Speak who are doing vital mutual aid work.
NEMPN believes in self-determination and dignity for all, and we will not stand for practices that harm our community. As Porchia Moore points out, the flood of open letters and movements like @changethemuseum lay bare the trauma experienced by museum professionals and the need to weave a trauma informed lens into all that we do. We pledge to center mental wellness and to break down and remove both known and unknown barriers that inhibit equitable labor, access, and inclusion within cultural institutions and museum spaces.
We recognize with humility what has been done, what the current moment is, what needs to be done. The work must be constant, sustainable, and regularly reaffirmed. We also recognize past & present paternalistic structures in the field and want to emphasize NEMPN’s role in cultivating a community that is ‘for us by us.’ As artist and activist Lilla Watson said, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Specific Goals and Plans to Advance DEAI in the National EMP Network:
Beyond this statement, we acknowledge the responsibility and necessity for action. This starts internally with the diversification of our NEMPN board and committees, our chapter leadership, and those who are providing resources and programming for EMPs – to address the impacts of ongoing inequity. As such we are outlining some specific goals and plans for NEMPN to advance DEAI initiatives.
In realizing these goals and plans we are:
- Open to being uncomfortable as a community in having difficult conversations
- Self-reflecting on all of our own privileges and biases in order to be better leaders for EMPs
- Showing respect for each other and paying attention to both the impact and the intent of our words and actions
- Accountable to our community and each other as individuals and the national network in upholding our stated values
- Modeling techniques, behaviours, and responsibilities that EMPs can take with them into the museum field
- Diligent in our evaluation, research and measurements of what we call success
- We want to work with NEMPN members to routinely overview and update our mission, vision, and values statements as well as our specific goals and actions. This could happen with each new board rotation (approximately 2 years).
- Create an evaluation system to measure social impact (using a model from the Oakland Museum of California), learn more about our strengths and shortcomings, and hold NEMPN accountable. This work can be led by the Advocacy and Community Committees. We will:
- Use Look at Art Get Paid as an example of equitable ways to achieve purposeful feedback.
- Regularly reach out to our community members and encourage folks to bring forth ideas on how NEMPN can improve. Surveys and other evaluation methods are being implemented by the Community Committee. Listen to the experiences, data, and insights of members, especially BIPOC, and learn from them.
- Open up virtual space for reflection and facilitated conversations that build collaborative resolutions and transformative justice. An example are our Town Halls held throughout the year as open forums for EMPs, these will continue and the focus will be on asking, “what do you want to see/ what do you need?” These discussions will determine future actions for NEMPN.
- Compensate EMPs for their labor and commit that we will not perpetuate the exploitative compensation structures that exist in our field. This includes:
- Monetarily compensating guest speakers, those hosting programming, and the labor of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled, & undocumented members in providing resources and feedback wherever possible. We are not a profit making organization, but we are actively finding new revenue streams so that we can funnel these funds back into our EMP community and chapters.
- Promote like-minded organizations and institutions that align with our values and form alliances. We will build collective social capital through:
- Building and sustaining relationships with others regarding advocacy initiatives such as organizations that center Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, refugee, LGBTQIA+, and disabled museum professionals.
- Champion employment practices that welcome and seek to retain equitable workplaces (i.e. paid internships, hazard pay for frontline workers, implementation of universal design within digital and physical museum spaces, equitable strategic leadership, etc.). We will not accept job posts that do not include a salary or are unpaid.
- The Communications Committee will work to maintain and share resources for social justice & museums through channels such as our website, member platform, social media, and newsletters.
- Recognize international declarations and covenants speaking to the concerns of our members, including but not limited to:
- Recognition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which establishes that locations of public trust, such as museums, are obligated to pursue mechanisms that would foster each person’s right to “freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts, and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” (UDHR, 1948).
- Recognition of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights which establishes that it is the responsibility of museums to secure our community’s right to self-determination, and by asset of that right, the liberty to “pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (ICESCR, 1966).
- Recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world (UNDRIP 2007).
This statement was developed in the spring of 2021 by the Statements subcommittee with input sought from the broader EMP community and approval by the NEMPN Board members. We invite you to download a copy of the National EMP Network’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Statement here.