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A Message from Executive Director & CEO Kelvin Browne

7 months ago

The Gardiner Museum stands in solidarity with the Black community and those who are protesting racism, white supremacy, and police violence. We recognize that museums have been complicit in perpetuating institutionalized racism and sustaining colonial structures, and acknowledge that Black and POC staff have at times felt unsafe or unsupported in these environments. This experience is evident in an open letter that was recently written and shared by Rea McNamara, who was the Gardiner’s Programs Manager from 2016-2019.

So what are we doing to change? We began this process more formally in 2018 when we started working with an equity, inclusion, and anti-oppression consultant who undertook a review of the Museum’s policies and made a series of recommendations. This was followed by mediation sessions around specific issues and equity workshops for all staff and volunteers. In 2019, we hired an HR consultant to gather information about the Gardiner’s work culture through an anonymous survey, staff interviews, and group sessions. This project remains ongoing.

We have been looking at the historical imbalances in our collection, and shaping our acquisition policies to ensure greater representation. Recently, the Museum acquired an important collection of more than fifty East African pots. These will complement a collection of West African ceramics already in our collection.

These steps represent the beginning of the work that needs to be done; past efforts have at times faltered and proved insufficient.

We have already begun taking a renewed look at our Community Arts Space and other longstanding partnerships to ensure that we are truly meeting the needs of our constituents. But it’s also essential to examine all of our activities through an anti-racist lens. Our goal is for our work with Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities to permeate all aspects of the Museum, rather than existing within defined pockets or timeframes. This will require direct community consultation and feedback.

We are also in the process of re-engaging an anti-oppression consultant to support our staff, including the work of our internal equity committee, and to help us implement measurable change.

When the Museum reopens, we will resume work on the 2021 – 2023 strategic plan. This will be an opportunity to consult with the community groups with whom we have had deep relationships, as well as to engage new partners in the Black, Indigenous, and POC communities. We recognize that the focus of these conversations must be what the Gardiner can do to support them.

The Museum’s historical collections represent what we now appreciate as a colonial perspective. We have been working toward adding more voices and narratives to the galleries, and are committed to making visible progress on this reinterpretation of the collection over the next year.

We will also be reviewing our hiring and board intake pathways to ensure that our leadership and Board of Trustees include more Black, Indigenous, and POC members. All hiring will be undertaken with these priorities firmly in mind.

We intend to continue giving public updates on our progress in the hopes that those who feel excluded now will feel safe and welcome at the Gardiner in the future.

It’s inescapable that the current Museum closure and our post-COVID reality has added a new layer of challenges. We are bracing for difficult times and reduced revenues. However, we remain committed to shifting priorities and practicing anti-racism in tangible and ongoing ways that will be felt by our staff and publics.

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