Our Commitment to Cultural Equity

The American Writers Museum was established to celebrate the diverse range of writers and writing that represents our country’s population. AWM exhibits and programs strive to present writers from historically underrepresented groups, because they provide critical and inseparable contributions to American literature, culture and history. As an institution, we strive to achieve that same broad representation among our Board of Trustees, staff, partners, and audience.

“Diversity makes for a rich tapestry and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” — Maya Angelou

OUR DEFINITION OF CULTURAL EQUITY

Cultural equity at the American Writers Museum embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in AWM exhibits, programs, and messaging.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & AFFIRMATIONS

  • In the United States, there are biases that allow privilege and access unequally such that inequity and injustice result, and that must be continuously addressed and challenged.
  • Cultural equity is critical to the American Writers Museum’s long-term viability and mission fulfillment.
  • We must all hold ourselves accountable, because acknowledging and challenging our inequities and working in partnership is how we will make change happen.
  • Everyone deserves full and equal access to museums.
  • The prominent presence of all voices challenges inequities and encourages alternatives.

OUR EFFORTS, AND FUTURE PLANS

As a new museum, opened in 2017, the American Writers Museum has the advantage of a modern, progressive mindset that values diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion as integral parts of the museum’s content, design, human resources, and actions. However, our culture and our world are constantly changing, and we must be proactive in assessing and modifying our strategies to ensure that all aspects of the AWM benefit from diversity and equity, and that all voices are heard.

Diversity

Exhibits and Programs

The authors and works of literature represented in the long-term exhibits were chosen by a diverse Content Leadership Team and Subject Matter Experts to represent writers who were diverse in gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, ideology, and genre. The AWM staff and Board are inspired by these writers, and we are committed to acting on their still-relevant messages advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion.

As long-term exhibits evolve and new special exhibits are planned, we will continue assure that we give voice to writers from historically underrepresented groups and present exhibits that serve as a platform to encourage public discourse about the themes addressed by those writers. We have done this with exhibits like My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today and Frederick Douglass: Agitator.

Through our programming, we have always made a strong commitment to feature writers who are more representative of the broad fabric of modern American writers, with an emphasis on those who may not have had sufficient exposure in the past. A representative sample of author programs is here. We will continue to proactively invite writers of various racial and ethnic groups, writers with disabilities, and those who represent the LGBTQ+ community for in-museum and online programs with the public. We will continue to feature writers from marginalized groups and those who address issues of equality and justice, and we will continue to learn from them.

Board of Trustees

The AWM Board Diversity Statement outlines the museum’s approach to Board diversity and why it is necessary, as well as strategies and a timeline to ensure a Board that represents the audience we serve.

Staff, including interns and volunteers

The AWM adheres to a culture of inclusivity in the workplace and maintains open opportunities for the entire staff. The AWM seeks people of diverse backgrounds for our staff, including interns and volunteers. Employment and volunteer opportunities are announced in a variety of outlets in an effort to reach a large and representative audience. In considering candidates for staff and volunteer positions, we reach out to minority stakeholders and consider people with varied professional backgrounds, including non-museum work. The American Writers Museum is an equal opportunity employer and considers all candidates for employment regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, creed, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

Curating Team

The AWM’s permanent exhibits were curated by a Content Leadership Team and a group of Subject Matter Experts, made up of 54 writers and scholars from around the country. This diverse team was instrumental in the museum’s development.

National Advisory Council

Since the museum’s opening, several of the curating team and other writers joined the National Advisory Council of the AWM and help maintain connection with the broad range of voices in American writing and to support the efforts of new special exhibits and ongoing programming. This group is made up of 37 diverse writers and scholars from around the country.

Equity

We recognize that not all people feel equally welcome and represented in museums, due to socio-economic status and other factors such as race, national origin or level of education. The AWM aims to reach all people with public messaging that communicates that the AWM is for everyone.

Although the AWM charges an admission fee for non-members, people who cannot afford the fee are welcome free of charge through the AWM’s participation in the Museums for All and the Chicago Public Library’s Kids Museum Passport programs. 

The AWM offers full cost subsidies for field trips by schools where most students live in low-income households, which is about 70% of visiting schools. Virtual field trips and online educational materials are promoted to a broad and diverse range of students nationwide.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We will continue to seek ways to help all people feel welcome at the AWM and ways to offer the museum experience at no cost for those who cannot afford the admission fee.

Accessibility

The museum was designed with accessibility features for people with physical disabilities, and the AWM website includes level A compliant accessibility features for people with visual impairments.

The AWM will continue to seek ways to make the museum accessible to people with other types of disabilities, such as the recent addition of braille labels on our Tools of the Trade exhibit and the correction of auto-generated subtitles for our program videos on YouTube.

Inclusion

Through our exhibits, programs, and messaging, the AWM strives to welcome people of all backgrounds, abilities, and income levels, including approximately 7,000 students who visit each year, largely representing the demographics of Chicago Public Schools. We will continue to increase the amount of exhibit and program material translated into other languages.

"We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community and this nation." -César E. Chávez

We also seek to increase inclusion for all through marketing such as promoting exhibits and programs through the Chicago Cultural Alliance to ethnic groups in Chicago, and partnerships, such as the AWM’s program partnership with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Horizons Writing Program. We will continue to use culturally-responsive messaging and strategic partnerships to encourage inclusion by everyone in our community.