To our NYU Museum Studies peers,
The current and former Museum Studies Student Organization Executive Boards strongly believe that Black Lives Matter. As a cohort, we can no longer remain silent in the wake of the dual pandemics facing our community: anti-Black racism and COVID-19. We stand in solidarity with our peers and other members of our community as they grieve, reflect, and take action in whatever ways they feel fit, now and in the days that follow.
We first want to amplify the voices of NYU’s Black students by sharing the Statement on Police Terrorism released by the NYU Black Student Union.
As an executive team, MSSO acknowledges our role in helping to shape our program and thus our student community into a place that is accepting, supportive, and equitable for all. We want to recognize that our work does not and should not solely include discussions about professional development and student growth. We must instead work to create the community our students need. The Board recognizes that these comments may come too late for some or seem reactionary to others - for that we are sorry, and we commit ourselves to doing better.
We recognize the many ways in which our nation’s systems disproportionately impact and victimize people of color, especially Black individuals and communities. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, and too many others are horrifying reminders of rampant police brutality and state-sanctioned violence in this country. We acknowledge the ways in which these events intersect with LGBTQIA+ identities and cause harm to people like Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and Iyanna Dior. We also recognize that this country’s criminal justice system and lack of accountability and prosecution has led to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Kalief Browder, Trayvon Martin, and all those whose names we do not know. The widespread racism in the U.S. is a despicable and long-endured reality for Black individuals in our community.
We also understand that the global COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black communities. According to the CDC, in New York City, death rates amongst Black and Latinx people from COVID-19 are significantly higher than those of other groups.* This is not only a chilling fact, it is also a reminder that our nation’s healthcare system is rooted in racism and racist practices. Like so many other systems, healthcare must be reformed to better serve these communities.
We recognize that museums are built on, with, and through systemic racism. Historically, museums have excluded non-white peoples, and their collections were formed from objects which have been taken, looted, and appropriated from those excluded. Museums today continue to fill their galleries with these stolen objects, which are displayed for predominantly white audiences. In addition to the many other structural issues within the field, museum practices and museum labor have historically privileged white voices. The voices of Black artists, scholars, and employees are consistently excluded in conversations within the professional museum community today. As we have heard many times before, museums are not neutral.
Neither are universities. As students in NYU’s Museum Studies program, we also must identify the ways in which universities - especially private institutions - perpetuate systemic inequality. It is necessary that we ask ourselves, our program, and our current and future colleagues hard questions about our composition, our conversations, and the practices of higher education more broadly.
There have been many incredible resources shared in the last week that we would like to share with you all. The Black Lives Matter movement has released an amazing set of resources linked here. Our organization has also compiled a list of materials, many of which are specific to the museum field, which you can access here. Feel free to contribute useful resources that you find through your own experiences by emailing them to email@example.com. These resources are not meant to be static or used once - please read them, refer to them regularly, and apply what you learn to facilitate change.
Finally, we would like to extend a call to action for our NYU Museum Studies peers. MSSO will be hosting a community conversation about these topics this summer. We hope that you will join us to share your thoughts, your feedback, and what you need from MSSO going forward. Please let us know if you are interested in getting more information about this conversation.
We are always available to you, so please do not hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit suggestions for community programming you’d like to see from MSSO.
MSSO Executive Board 2020-2021
MSSO Executive Board 2019-2020