This statement was originally released on June 3rd 2020:
Today, in our distress over recent devastating events, we stand with our community and with the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice and inequality. We recognize that real change is necessary both in our country and in our museum.
We believe that museums are not neutral: they should be part of public conversations on contemporary issues such as racism, injustice, and oppression. Museums have long been institutions that hold and reflect cultural values and collective memory. Now, they have an even greater responsibility to be active participants in challenging age-old and contemporary systems of oppression.
Like other museums, the Emily Dickinson Museum has a duty to examine the history it teaches and to expand the stories it tells. Emily Dickinson lived through a catastrophic Civil War rooted in racial injustice and oppression. Her family was part of a society that benefited from the labor of immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans in service to a privileged White majority. The poet’s literary work was made possible by the labor of these domestic servants. The Emily Dickinson Museum strives to tell this full story. Our new interpretive plan will place greater emphasis on the perspectives of Irish, Native American, and free Black workers in the Dickinson households, making plain issues of race and class in Dickinson family daily life.
At the Emily Dickinson Museum we recognize that this interpretive work is but one step in the greater effort to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and access for audiences, staff, and leadership in institutions like ours. Dickinson’s revolutionary poetic voice became an agent of change, both in the literary canon and in the lives of individuals who find depths of meaning in her account of our human condition. As an institution, we are committed to the continuous work of change that museums can and should be doing to build an equitable society.