Increasing Diversity Among Museum Audiences

There are many kinds of diversity in every community. Science centers and museums are hard at work to bring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and activities to more diverse audiences. In Sunday’s “Increasing Diversity Among Museum Audiences” session, session leader Amanda Paige from the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor, and presenters Cheronda Frazier from the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, Camden, New Jersey; Liani Yirka from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh; Brittany Chunn from the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History; and Brittani Lane from EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia, South Carolina, discussed ways to reach more diverse audiences at various age levels.

Frazier first shared the responsibilities of an institution trying to reach a more diverse audience:

  • Target audience must be defined.
  • Target audience should reflect the community, and the community must see itself within the institution. A comfort level is built this way.
  • Programs and marketing tools should reflect the target audiences. Again, the community must see itself represented in these materials (e.g., use of photos with diverse individuals).
  • Mission statements should reflect the institution’s commitment to diversity and should be incorporated into all programs.
  • The board of directors should reflect the diversity in the community.
  • The institution should have a strong policy statement supporting equal opportunity employment.
  • Diverse individuals should be represented on every level, especially among senior management.
  • Internal staff obstacles and training needs must be addressed if external recruitment initiatives are to be successful.

Frazier also suggested recruitment strategies for reaching more diverse audiences, including

  • Offer financial assistance
  • Align yourself with higher education institutions
  • Recruit within multicultural centers and clubs
  • Recruit within the community
  • Hold ongoing events to get your target audience in the door
  • Post job descriptions around the community and in the community centers.

The group was then given the opportunity to speak in small groups about reaching diverse audiences in elementary, middle, and high school and in college. Groups also discussed removing both physical and nonphysical barriers to diverse audience participation.