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Museums and Race: ASTC on Air with Joanne Jones-Rizzi

On Friday, March 4, 2016, ASTC On Air featured Joanne Jones-Rizzi, director of community engagement at the Science Museum of Minnesota and co-creator and concept developer of the exhibition Race: Are We So Different?

Over the past year, discussions have developed and groups have been created to address the implications of events such as the one in Ferguson, Missouri, on the mission of museums. In January, in response to an increasing dissatisfaction with the efforts to make our institutions more inclusive, museum professionals gathered in Chicago for “Museums and Race 2016, Transformation and Justice,” a convening to challenge and reimagine institutional policies and systems that perpetuate oppressions in museums. Joanne Jones-Rizzi, director of community engagement at the Science Museum of Minnesota and co-creator and concept developer of the exhibition Race: Are We So Different?, participated in the convening, and we’ve asked her to share her thoughts on how museums can work toward being more inclusive community institutions in the next edition of ASTC On Air.

Jones-RizziJoanne Jones-Rizzi works on systemic, ecological change within museums and the museum field. She actively questions, contextualizes, and reconfigures the relationships between exhibitions, culture, community, dialogue, and access. Her exhibitions, program initiatives, collaborations, and writings embody her three-decade-long focus on expanding meaningful access through exhibitions relevant to audiences who do not yet think of museums as their cultural institutions.

As director of community engagement at the Science Museum of Minnesota, she leads a group that is committed to being thoughtful and intentional about defining community and creating approaches that advocate equitable access, reciprocity, meaningful participation, and cultural relevance to a broad range of communities. In her leadership role she is an advocate and catalyst for the diverse perspectives that inform and sustain community engagement within the museum as well. Previously, as exhibit developer and cultural program director at the Boston Children’s Museum, Joanne was a primary leader of an initiative that addressed the institution-wide politics of inclusiveness, ranging the full spectrum from community partners to the museum’s board of trustees. Co-author of Opening the Museum, a book that reflected on this process, she has also written numerous articles exploring ideas related to identity, race, and community.

Joanne is the recipient of an Osher Fellowship at the Exploratorium and awards for her anti-racism work in Boston. She is the co-creator and concept developer of several award-winning exhibitions, including The Kid’s Bridge (Boston Children’s Museum, 1990), The Kid’s Bridge (Smithsonian Institution, 1992), Boston Black: A City Connects (Boston Children’s Museum, 2004), and Race: Are We So Different? (Science Museum of Minnesota, 2007, with a national tour through 2015). Joanne advises museums nationally and internationally on culture, identity, anti-racism, exhibition development, and community engagement.

Watch previous editions of ASTC On Air