Contemporary Understanding of “Harlem on My Mind”: What Can We Learn from an Art Museum’s Early Attempt toward Culturally Inclusive Practice?

By Yuha Jung.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 7, 2016 $US5.00

This paper discusses a contemporary understanding of the exhibition “Harlem on My Mind: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–1968,” held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. It analyzes the exhibition based on two theoretical frameworks, critical race and organizational universe theories, in order to distil the reason why the exhibition became a missed opportunity to advance cultural diversity in the field of museums and what contemporary museum professionals can learn from this early attempt toward culturally inclusive museum practices. By examining the problematic nature of the exhibition in relation to societal structures and the aforementioned theories, I discuss cultural superiority, white privilege, authoritative approaches, and rigid organizational structures. By doing so, this theoretical paper argues for a paradigm shift for museums as social agents that challenge institutionalized racism and welcome multiple voices and collaboration in the exhibition development process. I conclude that despite the negativity the exhibition did have a critical impact on advancing culturally inclusive practices in museums by making unjust museum practices visible and encouraging people to fight for more just practices.

Keywords: Harlem on My Mind, Critical Race Theory, Organizational Universe Theory, White Privilege, Cultural Diversity, Inclusive Museum Practice, Social Agent

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.41-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 7, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 623.540KB)).

Dr. Yuha Jung

Assistant Professor, Department of Arts Administration, The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA


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