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Happy International Museum Day! In celebration, we've selected a range of groundbreaking Routledge titles that explore this year's theme, Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion. Apply discount code F059 at the checkout to receive 20% off any of the books below! 

Some of our wonderful authors have kindly prepared exercises for Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums, Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism and Queering the Museum to facilitate students' engagement with these texts. Feel free to use them and to adapt them to the requirements of your course.

Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums, Patricia A. Banks

Prepared by Patricia A. Banks

Patricia A. Banks
Associate Professor of Sociology
Mount Holyoke College
50 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01060
[email protected] /

In Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums, Patricia A. Banks describes the role of patronage in the establishment of black museums like the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (NMAAHC). The NMAAHC is especially noteworthy because of high levels of support from black philanthropists such as media executive Oprah Winfrey, basketball player Michael Jordan, and tech investor Robert F. Smith. In this activity, designed by Banks, learn more about these and other million dollar donors to the NMAAHC:

• Search the NMAAHC website to learn more about the gifts of Oprah Winfrey and Robert F. Smith, along with those of basketball player Lebron James and philanthropists Earl W. and Amanda Stafford. What initiatives at the museum do their donations support?

• African Americans not only donated money to the NMAAHC. They also donated objects. Search the NMAAHC’s collection ( to find out about donations of art and artifacts from entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson, Dr. and Mrs. T.B. Boyd III, Oprah Winfrey, and Lebron James. What objects did they donate to the museum?

• Many of the high-level African American donors to the NMAAHC have had notable careers. What objects in the NMAAHC collection relate to the professional lives of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Robert L. Johnson, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lebron James.

• Choose one of the supporters listed below and browse newspaper reports to learn about their philanthropy. Write a 1000 word essay describing the philanthropic initiatives that they are involved in.

o Oprah Winfrey
o Robert F. Smith
o Shonda Rhimes
o Robert L. Johnson
o Michael Jordan
o Earl W. and Amanda Stafford
o Lebron James
o Tyler Perry

Find out more by reading Banks’ book Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums


Art & Visual Culture, History, Museum and Heritage Studies, Race & Ethnic Studies, Sociology of Culture, Other



International Museum Day and Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism edited by Joshua G. Adair and Amy K. Levin


The theme of this year’s International Museum Day, “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion,” is one addressed in every chapter, from various perspectives, in Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism. During these challenging times, many museums are working harder than ever to reach out to people across the globe and share their collections, ideas, and innovations. Still, as our edited collection asserts, institutions large and small continue to struggle with becoming more inclusive and offering substantial representation in the rich, expansive areas of gender and sexuality.

Whether you’re a seasoned museum-goer, practitioner, or scholar, or you’re just getting started – most of us are somewhere in between – there is much to learn. This is especially true in the present when many of us can only experience museums virtually. Fortunately, museums, be they local, national, or international, are more accessible than ever before. Using our collection, we have compiled suggestions for developing lessons that can happen from home.

We offer the following prompts for faculty to use with students in order to engage learners with concepts related to gender, sexuality, and museums while staying safe at home.

1. We recommend keeping your copy of Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism close at hand for reference and inspiration – it contains many chapters and we’re confident you’ll come up with research approaches we haven’t considered. Indeed, if you create a unique approach and wish to share it, use the hashtag #museumssexualitygender so that others can try it, too. We would love to see how you’re using the book!

2. You will find it useful to have an electronic device with access to Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter handy to investigate aspects of the book. We recommend taking screenshots to keep track of your research discoveries and observations. Taking notes will be helpful, too!

3. Explore the hashtags museums are using to increase their visibility. We suggest #museums4equality #imd2020 #museumsforequality #museumfromhome #museumsfromhome #museums #museumsoftheworld #routledgepublishing #quarantinemuseum #museumandchill. As you explore, take note of other hashtags you want to examine. What hashtags can you find that identify topics like gender and museums or sexuality and museums? Remember that a key component of effective research is serendipity, so keep your eyes peeled for unexpected possibilities.

4. Next, spend some time investigating the book’s cover photo (if you have the hardcover, you can view the photo here. What did you discover about “Qwearing the Collection” from the cover alone? What other information is available inside the book? Online? What are some of the ways the Van Abbemuseum explores gender and sexuality? What is your assessment of those approaches?

5. As you may have discovered by now, seeking out the social media presence of museums you’re familiar with is a great way to learn about their work – and to find other individuals and institutions engaged in similar areas. Spend some time doing that now by looking up any/all of the following: The Centre of Democracy, British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Digital Museum, or others covered in various chapters of the collection. Can you find images online related to the chapter content? After viewing those images, do you draw different conclusions than the author (s)?

6. As you continue to explore, spend some time finding out about the authors included in the collection. Many have been producing work related to gender and/or sexuality for years. Do the authors have online presences? Pick one or two of your favorites and consider what information you gleaned from examining their work. What causes an individual to pursue issues related to museums and gender?

7. Next, take one or more of the virtual tours provided by a museum that intrigues you. Take notes about what you’re hearing and significant silences.

8. Finally, considering all the information you’ve collected so far – and realizing that research and learning are never finished – answer the following questions.
a) How often did you find information (visual or written) that directly addressed issues related to gender and/or sexuality? What topics remain taboo?
b) Are certain kinds of information/representation featured more frequently than others?
c) What areas should be covered more deliberately or in-depth? If you were in charge, how would you achieve that goal?
d) Can you suggest additional hashtags relating to museums, gender, and sexuality? Which keywords are important to you?
e) What feedback would you offer to these museums? Will you take that step? Why or why not?


Queering The Museum, by Nikki Sullivan and Craig Middleton

A Call to Queer: International Museum Day

The International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) International Museum Day theme is diversity and inclusion. ICOM says that the “potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for peoples of all origins and backgrounds is central to their social value”, and that “as agents of change and trusted institutions, there is no time like the present for museums to demonstrate their relevance by engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of modern society”. The task of “engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of modern society” is not easy, nor is, or should there be, a clear path for all museums to do this.

Our book, Queering the Museum, addresses this call to action by articulating a queer analysis of the ways in which museums construct themselves, their core business, and their publics through the, often unconscious, use of inherited ways of seeing, knowing, being and doing. In its attempt to queer museums and museum practices – a process that we believe is without end -  the book should not be understood as a blueprint for practice, but rather as a toolkit that offers ideas, insights, and strategies that can be used, expanded and adapted in ways that are, perhaps, currently unimaginable.

So how might a queer approach to diversity and inclusion open up practices of display, interpretation, meaning-making and community engagement to support the change-making ICOM calls on all museums to participate in?

Some groups have been so marginalised that their material culture has been lost to history. How, then might museums represent othered others without such material culture to display within museum galleries and exhibitions?

Taking a queer approach to display we are able to look beyond what we think we know about our collections and open up interpretation. An example from our own practice comes from Richard Boyle, an Adelaide-based textile artist, who was also a participant in an exhibition we curated called Queering the Museum. Exploring the History Trust of South Australia’s collections Richard discovered a lavender coloured wedding dress from the 1950s and a beard that was part of a child’s costume. Richard wanted to display these two objects which would ordinarily be placed together on the same mannequin. He wrote a label that explained the terms ‘Lavender Marriage’, and ‘beard’ as they have operated in gay culture. The former refers to a marriage of convenience between a homosexual man and a woman to conceal sexual identity in times when homosexuality was illegal, and the latter to the female partner who conceals her husband’s sexual identity. This unique configuration uses objects as vehicles to explore histories rather than, as is most often the case, viewing an object as the source of a single truth that is simply conveyed to audiences. Such an approach is more interested in what objects do (or can do) than in what they mean.  It also means that museums can no longer claim a lack of objects related to a particular group or identity as an excuse for non-inclusion.

If, like Richard’s example, we look beyond the documented histories of objects in museum collections – and queer our understanding of museum practices such as interpretation and display – we are able to open up cultural collections to wider audiences and to engage those who have traditionally been excluded.

This is only one of many ways to queer museums. How might you queer yours?

Don't forget to check out the Routledge International Museum Day article collection too!

​Free to access through to 30th June 2020, these articles aim both to celebrate the current research on overcoming bias in museum communities, and inspire further study on how we can strive for equality in our museum spaces and beyond.

Access them here.

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