The toolkit was compiled using best practices recorded on tour observations and through discussions with more than 150 guides and docents during a two-year period. When asked “what makes a successful tour?” the overwhelming majority of guides and docents answered “participation from visitors” or “a high level of engagement.” In observing tours with high levels of engagement, where everyone on the tour participated in some manner, common elements and approaches emerged. This is not to say that these were “cookie-cutter” tours; rather, that guides and docents who have diverse touring styles used similar techniques to engage their groups.
As you prepare your tours, reflect on what inclusion means to you. In what circumstances or events in your life have you felt excluded, rather than included? How did that make you feel? How did you feel when you were offered opportunities to participate or to give voice to your ideas and opinions?
To become truly inclusive in our approach is an ongoing journey. Cecile Shellman, a museum consultant for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) initiatives, rightly states:
“[I]nclusiveness isn’t something we can just prepare an extended checklist to measure—something standard across all museums—and then, having checked everything off the list, we’re suddenly inclusive! No: the whole point of being inclusive is that it is other-centered. It’s visitor-centered …Inclusion isn’t about you; it’s about them. And there are so many kinds of people and museum visitors and truth seekers in the world that we many never 100 percent adequately serve one, much less all.”1
Why is this important to museums?
Everyone is welcome.
(Mia billboard, 2019)
Providing a more inclusive experience to visitors is a goal not only for Mia, but for museums around the world. To remain relevant in our 21st-century world, we must actively foster meaningful dialogues and experiences in our spaces to connect to people’s lives today.
The Tour Toolkit reflects best practices as well as current research in the field. As we train new classes of docents and guides, we offer more focus on and practice of facilitation techniques to encourage all voices on tours. Our volunteer corps is predominantly white, as is our education staff, so it is imperative that we also continue to cover topics that help grow our cultural fluency. As the demographics of our communities change, conscious and consistent efforts to include all visitors in discussion and exploration of our collection are necessary for the museum’s future and to maintain its cultural relevance.
- Cecile Shellman, A Totally Inclusive Museum, American Alliance of Museums, February 20, 2019 ↩