In July 2020, Museum Development UK (MDUK) released a statement in response to the international Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody, stating its commitment to learning, taking action and to actively listen to what was happening across the globe. Here are some of the things we have been working on since last summer.

The first thing MDUK did was establish an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) working group. The group has met every two months to share ideas, concerns, challenges and our aspirations for the kinds of changes we want to see in the museum sector with regards to diversity and inclusion and how we can enable these changes. EDI is now a standing agenda item at quarterly MDUK Committee and twice-monthly MD England leads meetings. MDUK is also part of the UK Museums Workforce Group.

Early in 2021, MD England commissioned Inclusive Boards to deliver EDI training for 15 staff members representing all 9 regions in England. The 3-part bespoke virtual training programme was designed to ensure that delegates gained a broader knowledge and understanding of diversity and inclusion so that they are able to become EDI champions. Delegates gained a clear understanding of the Equalities Act 2010, the unconscious bias spectrum, and different types of micro-aggression. Strong facilitation enabled participants to explore specific equalities strands, and terminologies around the topics of racism, white privilege, reclaimed words, positive discrimination and positive action. From the training evaluation, delegates reported the actions they intend to achieve over the next 6 months as:

  1. Review and revise internal Equality Action Plans
  2. Embed EDI activity more fully across all programmes and activities delivered
  3. Disseminate learning and resources to other teams members
  4. Develop existing EDI programmes and commission new programmes for museums.

This vital training has helped to shape and inform programmes that are being delivered for the museum sector by Museum Development teams. Here are just some of the projects we are working on:

MD West Midlands is working with the Audience Agency on collecting EDI data and supporting museums to do this effectively.

MD North West is involved in a sector research project with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Centre.

MD London is running its popular Diversity Matters Programme supporting museums to develop realistic equality action plans.

MD South West has launched a National Lottery Heritage Funded programme to support inclusion and resilience for museums across Gloucestershire focused on organisational structures, volunteer diversity and audience engagement.

MD South East has formed an EDI working party within its team and is working with VocalEyes on access statement training with a cohort of 12 museums.

SHARE Museums East is rolling out the EDI training to all members of staff in the team and developing a pilot project called Reinterpret and Retell for museums with colonial-related collections.

MD Yorkshire is delivering a mix of group training cohort learning and one-to-one support to embed EDI organisational development.

MD East Midlands is carrying out access audits and associated training for 12 museums and running a programme to help museums to diversify their volunteers.

MD North East has embedded inclusion across 3 grant programmes and is hosting a Big Conversations series of meetings around EDI.

In Wales, they have developed a cultural contract for grant recipients to sign up to with principles linked directly to EDI. They are also expanding diversity networks and making plans for Black History Cymru 365

MD England has also woven EDI questions, adopted from the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) Tackling Inequalities Hallmark into the Museums’ Organisational Health Check – a self-assessment tool for museums. This will enable MD England to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the sector in relation to EDI so that we can shape programmes to meet the needs of museums.

MDUK recognises our role, alongside that of museums, is to develop an inclusive sector that challenges and opposes racism and inequality and we are working to develop a shared approach to support museums to address institutional, sectoral and societal inequalities.

In a new partnership, MDUK and the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) are collaborating on the development of a national EDI programme for museums from across England and Wales. Details will be released in late Spring 2021.