Black Lives Matter: The Arctic Museum’s Plan For Moving Forward

Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center

Black Lives Matter: The Arctic Museum’s Plan For Moving Forward

In support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, the staff of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic museum has been reflecting upon our institutional history and what we can do moving forward to better promote Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices, and to actively combat the white supremacy imbedded in our society.

We acknowledge that we are currently an all-white permanent staff at a predominantly white institution of higher education. The idea of the modern museum itself, as originally conceived, is a racist, colonial enterprise, and our particular museum is named for and owes its origin to two individuals who operated within colonial and racist frameworks.

For a long time, Arctic Museum staff have understood that museums are not neutral, and we have prioritized anticolonial practices and programming. Nevertheless, we recognize the reality that much more is needed. The following are a number of initiatives we look forward to undertaking in the near future.

1. Individually and collectively participate in workshops and other educational activities to examine our own implicit biases and how we can be more effective allies, or better yet accomplices, to BIPOC communities locally and globally.

2. Increase and diversify the ways we promote and amplify BIPOC voices in our course support; exhibitions; web content; tours, and programming for the public, college community, and K-12 students.

  • Increase our use, assignment, citation, and promotion of BIPOC academic work and educational materials as well as content produced by BIPOC-led professional and community organizations.
  • Continue to hire a diverse group of student interns, and work to expand their awareness of opportunities for and importance of BIPOC representation in museum work.
  • Work with community partners and funding agencies to explore the creation of an advisory group made up of members of source communities.
  • Work to identify BIPOC, particularly Indigenous, guest curators and co-curators and funding to support their work.
  • Continue to Prioritize BIPOC speakers and performers for museum events.

3. Develop exhibitions and gallery tours, and sponsor programs that expose the legacy of colonialism, power, and inequality evident in the history of Arctic exploration, history of museums, and colonization of the Americas, while promoting racial justice and equality.

  • Devote space in our permanent exhibit to addressing the history of racism in Arctic exploration.
  • Continue to design tours that emphasize the vital role the Inuit played in Arctic exploration.
  • Provide tour guides with sensitivity training to give them the tools to better handle questions regarding racism and colonialism within the museum.
  • Share our work through the use of blogs, presentations, and articles to contribute to and encourage the movement towards an anti-racist and anti-colonial museum field.

4. Increase our support and funding of Indigenous artists/creators through programming and the museum shop.

  • Where possible, purchase items directly from Indigenous artists/creators.
  • Explore funding sources to pay fees to living artists when their work is exhibited in either physical or digital exhibits.
  • Continue to seek funding to fairly compensate collaborators, speakers, and performers.

5. Continue working on collaborative community projects in the Arctic and initiate and partner with other efforts to decolonize museums and institutions of higher education.

  • Expand digital access to our collections and promote awareness of them in northern communities. 
  • Continue to work with source communities to identify projects of interest to them, following the model of the Nunatsiavut Embroidery Project. 

Finally, we would like to thank the many individuals and organizations that have worked tirelessly for many years on anti-racism and anti-colonialism in museums and related fields. The above initiatives have been largely inspired by their work. 

If you have any additional suggestions or comments, please reach out to us at 

Susan A. Kaplan

David Maschino

Genevieve LeMoine

James Tanzer

Michael Quigley

KymNoelle Hopson

Hannah Moore

Molly Schwanz