Race and the Museum: A Pittsburgh Workshop

Carnegie Museum Gallery of Ethnology 1908


Race and the Museum: A Pittsburgh Workshop

In our far from post-racial world, museums are increasingly feeling the pressures of demographic change and urgent new campaigns for racial justice.  Famous European museums are altering the titles of art works to eliminate demeaning terms; Confederate monuments are being dismantled in public space and sent to history museums for storage; museums across the U.S. are scrambling to shed their image as bastions of privilege and to diversify their audiences and supporters. 

How have museums, as collections and as institutions, created, supported, or challenged constructions of race and racial identity?  How are museums and their objects implicated in the history of slavery, indigenous peoples, and race relations?  How have museums represented and interpreted these issues?  How can and should their collections tell different stories?  What can museums do to combat white privilege, and become more inclusive in their institutional structures and in their audiences?

For one week in May, a group of twelve faculty and graduate students representing nine different departments here at Pitt will tackle these questions in a new workshop funded by the A.W. Mellon Foundation.  Drawn from a wide array of fields from anthropology and history of science to English and art, the participants will go behind the scenes in local museums, dig into collections, and talk with curators and museum educators to see how they deal with these issues in their institutions and careers.             

But we also plan to do more than just talk, as important as that is.  Every participant in the workshop will develop an individual or collaborative project to carry the workshop forward, whether it be a revised course for undergraduates, an exhibition, a publication, a community engagement initiative, or even a new partnership with a local institution.  We hope these projects will not only be transformative for the participants themselves but have ripple effects within the university and museum communities and ultimately out in the city and region as well.  Please check back in later and we will point you to a new website documenting their work and its impact.


  • Research Groups
  • Agency
  • Identity
  • Visual Knowledge
  • Current Projects