Earlier this week a group of former employees of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art shared an open letter that highlights issues of racism at the museum.
The letter was shared on the Instagram account @changenmafa and was also sent to Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch III. The contents of the letter focus on discrimination in hiring and promoting staff. “There are no Black curators in a museum solely dedicated to the arts and culture of Africa. For over ten years, NMAfA’s curatorial team has been exclusively White despite demonstrated interest among Black arts professionals and scholars in joining the institution,” the letter reads. The writers also share instances in which white employees were given preference or special opportunities to apply for promotions.
An anonymous former employee told Hyperallergic that a culture of bullying and racial bias was pervasive throughout the museum. “During the time I was there they made it very difficult for me to do my job. They bullied me, undermined my work, and favored this other white employee by giving her public praise for tasks that were my job,” they said.
The writers included seven immediate actions they demand the museum take. Among the demands are the resignation of Christine Mullen Kreamer, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator; international job searches that pull from a diverse pool of candidates that include people of African descent; and a review of all recent dismissals of former Black employees.
A spokesperson for the group says that the museum has yet to formally respond to their letter.
The full letter can be read here.