Including Museums in Critical Mixed Race Studies

Including Museums in Critical Mixed Race Studies

the incluseum: museums and social inclusion

Chieko Phillips, Curatorial Assistant
Northwest African American Museum, Seattle, Washington

In 2009, when I first learned of a museum exhibit called IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas and two other exhibits that carried messages about multiraciality, I had mixed feelings (pun intended). How could any museum present messages about mixed identity; something that is so fluid and personal to me?  On a less emotional level, since the 2000 U.S. census, the first to allow people to mark more than one racial category, mixed race identity is officially recognized by the government and increasingly visible on a national scale.  Therefore, the representation of the history and experience of those who identify as mixed race has become more frequent in American pop culture.

While many scholars,students, and activists are still working to understand the implications of multiraciality for the racial structures of the United States, museums are already presenting narratives about mixed race and placing these narratives in the context of American citizenship. Are they doing it right? Is anyone doing it right? What is right? I have been exploring these questions for the past 3 years and believe the answers are currently indeterminate but full of potential…

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