Letter to the Science Museum’s community and friends

Here we are in 2022 and I am writing to remind you that we, as an institution, are not taking our eyes off the equity prize. It is essential to our long-term relevance, viability, and mission. Museums and cultural institutions which do not prioritize and center equity in authentic, meaningful ways will not survive into the future.

As a predominantly white organization, we are committed to dismantling scientific, educational, and other systems that deprioritize Black, Brown, and Indigenous students. If these systems do not change, we will never make progress to address educational disparities. The Science Museum is already a national leader on this issue, and we are committed to transforming our internal culture to be a national model for what a museum can do and become while dismantling white supremacy culture. We know that we will make mistakes and learn from them, we know that doing this work will make us stronger as an organization, and we know that our audiences will benefit. We envision a vital, energetic museum where all visitors will see their lived experience represented in exhibitions, in public programs, and in the staff with whom they interact. 

Now more than ever, when there are forces within our society attempting to divide us and to retract and rescind policies designed to protect the rights of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and women, it is imperative that we remain focused on our work to achieve collective liberation. 

We intentionally used the term “collective liberation” in our 2030 Strategic Plan, which is defined by The Center for Racial Justice in this way:

Collective Liberation acknowledges that multiple oppressions exist, and that we work in solidarity to undo oppression in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our institutions, in order to achieve a world that is truly free. We work collectively because we recognize that each of us has a stake in ending white supremacy and all related systems of oppression. Collective liberation requires that we center the voices and lived experiences of those who have been most marginalized. Collective liberation is found in community and relationship building, and in the sharing of our stories, including our sorrow and our joy. Collective liberation depends on our communities to build shared power and accountability that foster a just and transformed world.

Two years ago, George Floyd was brutally murdered in public. Some of you understood the systemic racism inherent within what the world saw. Some of you were outraged about injustice and racism for the first time. Many of you made commitments to not look away anymore. You took your children to the site where George Floyd was killed, you participated in vigils, you used what happened on a corner in South Minneapolis as a catalyst to have family discussions about structural racism, you gave money to organizations, you committed yourselves to antiracism, and you wanted to learn. Books were purchased and read, Black-owned businesses were supported, record breaking donations were bequeathed upon Black-owned businesses and social justice organizations. You talked and you shared, and you were outraged. That was 2020.

We as a museum have not moved on from our commitment to racial justice, racial equity, and inclusion, nor did we begin our commitment to equity and inclusion because of the murder of George Floyd. This work has been in process at SMM for more than 25 years. 

At the museum we are working to reflect the lived experiences of Black and Brown audiences. We are working to provide educators with curriculum resources that support culturally inclusive science pedagogy. We are working to increase staff representation at all levels so that audiences interact with people who look like them. And we are working to support museum staff to center equity in their respective roles—from science research and collecting to marketing and PR to museum business practices and vendor inclusion to exhibition development and co-creation within all educational, community programs, and visitor experiences. The equity work that we have prioritized for our museum is work that requires us all to be fully present, to be vulnerable, to be forceful, and to be committed to continued change. 

We are enthusiastic about our commitment and our ability to advance progress internally and externally. We look forward to working alongside our Trustees to be a courageous leader by truly bringing  our mission, vision, and values to life to make change. 

Joanne Jones-Rizzi
Vice President of Science, Equity, and Education