Civil Rights and the Experiential Museum Experience

Deborah Richardson

Join museum professional Deborah Richardson on Dec. 2, 2020, 7:30 p.m. as she shares her experiences while creating the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR), a one-of-a-kind institution in Atlanta, Georgia. The center connects the American civil rights movement to modern-day human rights and the lessons learned to create a story-telling, experiential museum. Richardson will explore the unique role museums play to educate and explore issues of equity, inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation. Register for this informative and free webinar at this link.

Richardson is working towards her doctorate with a concentration in Public Policy & Social Change a specialization in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s & Gender Studies. She currently serves as executive director of the Atlanta-based International Human Trafficking Institute and was former executive vice president of NCCHR. She is a nationally recognized leader on social justice for women and girls and an advocate to end child sex trafficking. Throughout her career, she has witnessed the power museums like NCCHR have to educate, empower, and inspire. She is cognizant of the significant role the NCCHR has made in bridging the progress made during the civil rights movement with current challenges. She helped to steward exhibitions that illustrate the work achieved by ordinary people as they participated in segregated lunch counter sit-ins, the March on Washington, and voter registration drives. Richardson believes that “everyday people have the power to inspire us to do great things … ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

Nancy A. Boxill, Ph.D., faculty in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, admires Richardson’s work in social justice. Boxill leads the program’s Public Policy and Social Change concentration and has seen Richardson’s work in action. “Deborah is a soft-spoken giant in the work of and for social justice. She is known across the country and many parts of the globe for her kindness, her skills, and her press to the future. One of Deborah’s most perfect gifts to the ongoing and protracted struggle for freedoms of many sorts is her ability to lead individuals and groups in crafting their own paths toward justice, while connecting those same people and groups to the power of collaboration. Deborah knits together the strengths of one into the work of many.”

Richardson grew up in Atlanta on the same street as Rev. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr. and other early leaders of the civil rights movement, including Donald Lee Hollowell and the Ralph Abernathy family. What she experienced growing up, she says, had a direct impact on the work she does now.

“My advocacy work in addressing human trafficking has been significantly informed by both Dr. King and my public policy courses at UI&U,” said Richardson. “Union’s MLK program examines Dr. King’s teachings and how his legacy continues to inform social change. In his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Community or Chaos, Dr. King predicts a time when we will forget the principles of nonviolent social justice — the efforts to eliminate racism, militarism, and poverty. Now, many years since his death, one has only to read a newspaper or listen to any local or national media outlet and affirm the truth of his predictions has come to fruition.”

Dr. Anu Mitra, faculty in the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies Program and certificate facilitator for the program’s Design Thinking and Museum Studies certificates, will moderate the webinar. Mitra is active with numerous museums and is a specialist in visual culture, arts-based practices, art, and leadership development. She is a trustee at the Cincinnati Art Museum and sits on the Ohio Advisory Board of the National Museum for Women in the Arts. She is also a long-time docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati.

Mitra believes museums must embrace their roles as cultural and community institutions and play a pivotal role in social justice by exhibiting art and collections that reflect the changing demographics of their communities and America in the 21st century. “Museums everywhere need to address issues of equity, inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation. They must look for pathways to change and refocus their priorities to meet these shifts. Now is the time for institutions to enrich and exhibit under-represented artists of a variety of societal groups and modes of artistic expression.”

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) whose mission is to champion museums and nurture excellence echoes Dr. Mitra’s beliefs. In the AAM strategic plan, the organization urges members to focus on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in all aspects of museum structure and programming for the sustainability of museums.” (Source: AAM)

For example, a museum might conduct community forums or surveys to find better ways to engage with underrepresented peoples or cultures. Based on those discussions new dialogues to embrace and enhance understanding with honesty and compassion through exhibits, art, or discussions may lead to implementation.

Please join Deborah Richardson and Dr. Anu Mitra for an hour-long discussion. They will examine the lessons learned in creating the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the unique role museums need to play today in overcoming cultural bias, racial discrimination, divergent opinions, acknowledgment of past injustices, and respect for similarities and differences.

Register today for this informative and free webinar at this link.

If you are interested in combining your passion for art and social justice into a career, the Union Institute & University Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies may be the right educational avenue for you. It is one of few offerings at the doctoral level in the world, and is available to all students enrolled in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. Find out more here: link.

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