Press Releases & Statements

Message from the Executive Director - Spring 2016

March 11, 2016

Following criticism over the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to approve changes aimed at doubling the number of women and people of color in its membership by 2020.  Its Board of Governors unanimously approved a series of changes to "make the Academy's membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse." This is a laudable step, but it should be just the beginning, because the narrowness of the Academy's membership reflects the narrowness of the film community as a whole.

I could not help but draw parallels between the Academy and the AAMD.  Both are membership organizations that have historically been  homogenous. The diversity statistics of our Association clearly reflect the same trends reported in the recent Andrew W. Mellon Foundation report on diversity in art museums broadly - namely, that museum leadership remains largely devoid of people of color. In order to diversify the leadership of art museum directors we need to think holistically on how to diversify the pipeline of people that could be the museum directors of the future.

Recently, J.J. Abrams, producer, director, writer of...well, everything (including "Star Wars the Force Awakens"), sent a memo to studios and agents announcing a new policy at his production company, Bad Robot, requiring that any lists of writers, directors, actors and others to be considered for a project should "be at the very least representative of the country we live in." I know museums feel the same way, but I would like to see museums take decisive action to change their own hiring practices. I think this is possible even by just considering just considering a few changes.


  • Extend your search for talent beyond the traditional sources. Actively recruit at diverse universities and community colleges.  Not everyone can go to an Ivy League school.  I do not believe that museums will sacrifice excellence if you look beyond the traditional canon.
  • Consider how you recruit and frame your job descriptions. Does that entry level job REALLY need a master's degree? Probably not.
  • Pay your interns, if you can. Unpaid internships make the pathway to museum employment less accessible to candidates without the resources to accept unpaid work. The issues with diversity are not just about skin color, but about socio-economic challenges, too.
  • Look for individuals with experiences and expertise that are not typically associated with museum studies or art history degrees. This may mean that the candidate has a different perspective and view, but in order to be a diverse institution you need to accept diverse views.

I think we should recognize that diversity in AAMD - or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - just for the sake of saying "We are a diverse organization!" should not be our goal. Like the Academy and the film industry, we need to embrace diversity as important for the museum field more broadly. Our membership will benefit in the long run, and so will our institutions and our audiences.

Christine Anagnos
Executive Director


Christine Anagnos / Alison Wade
Association of Art Museum Directors

Elizabeth Chapman
Resnicow and Associates