Dissertation Defense - Rose Paquet
You are cordially invited to join us for the dissertation defense of Rose Paquet, to be held on Monday, May 17, 2021, via Zoom from noon to 2 p.m. PDT.
Cultivating Inclusion in U.S. Museums: Insights from The Incluseum
In the U.S., museums have long struggled with elitism and exclusion. Recently, however, the notion of inclusion has become a central and defining aspect of contemporary U.S. museological practice and thought. In just the last year, a number of institutional and grassroots initiatives made strides towards centering inclusion in the U.S. museum field. For example, institutionally, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) announced a 3-year grant initiative aimed to “provide the framework, training, and resources for museum leaders to build inclusive cultures within their institutions that more accurately reflect the communities they serve” (American Alliance of Museums, Jan. 15, 2019). At the same time, individual and grassroots efforts are many and varied. For example, museum leader, and public intellectual, Nina Simon announced her new initiative called of/by/for/all that will act as an “accelerator for change within the broader movement for diversity, equity, and inclusion in community-based organizations” (of/by/for/all, n.d.). While significant, these and other efforts remain disparate and present few explicit connections made between them.
Two interlinked objectives motivated this dissertation. The first was theoretical, and the second empirical. On the theoretical-level, I first discussed various dimensions of inclusion in museums in order to probe the question:
- How can systemic change centered on inclusion be brought about?
I focused my discussion on the significance of inclusion to the museum field, its history, and who has been involved in conversations about it. In particular, I highlighted how authors such as Taylor (2017) and Taylor and Kegan (2017) put forth a whole system approach to inclusion in museums. Next, building on this approach, I developed a framework entitled Four Interacting Levels of System Change for Cultivating Inclusion. This framework is made of actionable strategies synthesized from contemporary sources on inclusion in U.S. museums discussed in my literature .
Next, on the empirical-level, I conducted a single, instrumental case study of The Incluseum, a project that I co-founded in 2012. Since then, it has become the longest run multivocal platform dedicated to ongoing, collaborative inquiry about inclusion in museums. My guiding research question was:
- What insights does the content of The Incluseum provide into the state of practice pertaining to inclusion in U.S. museums?
Four main themes emerged through an inductive thematic analysis of Incluseum blog entries: Relationships, Social Justice, Representation and Access, and Institutional Change. Each is comprised of sub-themes. These themes are deeply interconnected and best understood as being part of one-another, as constituting a whole, or relational matrix. In other words, inclusion is best understood as existing at the center of this relational matrix; it is about the local interplay of these four themes. Looking to the Four Interacting Levels of System Change for Cultivating Inclusion Framework and the findings of this study side-by-side, we see a high degree of overlap, but must be cautious of their different orientation. More specifically, both present a holistic/whole systems view of museums, albeit from different angles. The Framework takes an instrumental and solution-oriented approach to systems change, while the study’s findings are descriptive of a landscape and emphasize a relational approach to change with no clear prescribed method. The study’s findings point to a paradigmatic change from ‘power-over’ to ‘power-with’, which speaks to an ontological approach to inclusion; one that is predicated on a different way of thinking–a relational way of thinking. As such, care-centered values emerge as key to inclusion-related work.
Importantly, the instrumental approach presented in the framework and the relational approach deriving from this study might not be mutually exclusive, but need to be contextually negotiated in practice. Future research can inquire about this local and practice-based orientation to complement the more common benchmarking studies that national groups like the American Alliance of Museums undertake.
While this dissertation and its conclusions certainly have no pretense to close the book on the question of inclusion in U.S. museums, they have attempted to draw attention to and hold high an on-going process of collaborative inquiry involving many. This inquiry, both through the literature and through the blogposts analyzed, represents a rich diversity of museum practitioners and scholars, all continuing to learn through reflection and action. The dissertation provides perspectives from many voices, both theoretically and empirically. Its findings expand and strengthen the museological knowledge base with both theoretical and practical significance (Tracy, 2013). And, in line with Tracy’s definition of a “significant contribution”, it has served to “bring some clarity, make visible what is hidden or inappropriately ignored, and generate a sense of insight and deepened understanding” (ibid, p. 240).
Zoom link: https://washington.zoom.us/j/93969185931
- Dave Hendry, Professor, iSchool, (Chair)
- Jessica Luke, Professor, Museology
- Elena Gonzales, Independent Scholar and Curator
- LeiLani Nishime, Professor, Communication (GSR)