Dear Friends of the Haffenreffer Museum,
We wish to share our sadness, anger, and frustration at the killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As President Paxson has noted, his death and the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, need to be understood as part of an enduring and persistent history of oppression, as well as prejudice, outright bigotry, and hate. Taken together, they expose the structural racism that is woven into the social fabric of our nation.
We want to acknowledge that museums, including our own, have been agents in reproducing structural racism. Indeed, museums originated as colonial institutions designed to advance and reinforce the idea of "civilization." The discipline of anthropology emerged as the field devoted to the study of non-Western people with race as an organizing frame. The field has since demonstrated the scientific invalidity of the concept and is actively engaged in the deconstruction of its pernicious legacy.
Today, the Haffenreffer Museum, as well as many other museums, are seeking out new roles and responsibilities to promote meaningful conversations on social issues that matter. We are acknowledging our problematic histories and envisioning new and more inclusive futures. This process is difficult and requires that we confront our assumed institutional authority and actively engage with the various communities whose cultural heritage we steward.
In our work, we are inspired by the words of Lonnie Bunch, former Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture – “Will we heed the call of courageous figures throughout history who spoke out against slavery, marched on for voting rights, and sat in for basic equality? Will we challenge the nation to live up to its founding ideals? In the memory of those taken from us and for the good of the country, I hope that we do.”
The Haffenreffer Museum believes that Black Lives Matter. We are committed to amplifying the voices of Black students and scholars at Brown University through partnerships, programs, exhibitions, and collections research. We affirm the rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or disability to see themselves represented and uplifted in museum spaces. We rededicate ourselves to the principles and values of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice necessary for creating the conditions for the possibility of meaningful social change.
Robert W. Preucel, Director
For further educational resources on race and diversity, and for more updates and perspectives from Brown University and our peers, we suggest exploring the following links: