The Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) has unanimously approved and released an Anti-Racism Action Plan with hopes of pushing the Museum towards greater equity and inclusion.
“This statement represents a recommitment on the part of everybody who’s a member of the [BCMA] staff since everybody had an opportunity to read drafts and contribute recommendations,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director of the BCMA, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “The document is definitely much stronger as a result of the excellent feedback and recommendations that our staff shared with us.”
The plan was a direct response to the deaths of Black individuals who were killed by police officers across the country. It is meant to be an enactment of President Rose’s call for anti-racist change at the College.
The BCMA hopes to acknowledge its institutional history and assess how to move forward with inclusion initiatives through four concrete steps (visible on the museum’s website).
“[The BCMA] is committed to educating and sharing our resources equitably and creating opportunities for both students and for members of our community,” said Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director of the BCMA, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We felt that it was incumbent upon us to do a thorough examination of our organization and to think about not only what we seek to do, but how we seek to do it.”
This action plan is an extension of the Strategic Direction Plan that the BCMA released during the start of the 2020 fiscal year. In this plan, the co-directors highlighted their goal to support an inclusive and diverse community.
“We’re not only looking at what we see on the surface. We’re not only concerning ourselves with the experiences of students today, although that’s incredibly important,” said Anne Goodyear. “We’re also trying to dig into understanding what is structurally off about the Museum and at the College that might bear further investigation.”.
The BCMA’s action plan also introduced its newly-assembled anti-racism task force. The task force has six members, three of whom have rotating positions, and these members are beginning an internal review of the BCMA’s collection, exhibitions, student programs and institutional history.
“One of the things that we’re in the midst of doing with this task force is assessing where the BCMA is, how have we done things and how well we’re doing them [now]” said Frank.
The task force is using the Museum As Site for Social Action readiness assessment to begin their internal review, which is specifically built to help museums assess where they are with respect to the goal of equity.
“We’re definitely in more of a discussion phase right now instead of an implementation phase,” said Elizabeth Humphrey, curatorial assistant and manager of student programs, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “That’s mostly just to make sure we are understanding what we want to do and where we’re at and how much progress we need to be making.”
The task force has the overarching goal of examining the BCMA as a whole—including its origins—with the hope of joining other museums beginning to do this critical work.
“We need to think long and hard about how to actually implement changes. That is a challenge that a lot of museums are facing right now,” said Humphrey. “I think It’s going to be a long road [and] that changes are not going to happen overnight.”
Despite the BCMA’s small staff and inability to expand due to the College’s hiring freeze, the BCMA hopes to make the Museum an inclusive space for all members of the Bowdoin community.
“I am specifically trying to champion sustainable change. This work cannot rest on rotational appointments alone, and so I think it is important for the museum to leverage its more permanent employees to continue this work. I think the museum and the directors are aware that this responsibility needs to be a commitment and not just a one-time response.”