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Milwaukee Public Museum's first diversity director hopes to engage communities from diverse backgrounds

Rhoan Garnett
Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 18:26:47-05

MILWAUKEE — It is a first of its kind for this new position at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), and it will promote diversity and inclusion.

MPM recently named Dr. Rhoan Garnett the Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA), the first in the museum's 137-year history.

As Garnett walks the museum halls, he sees opportunity at every turn.

"One of the things I noticed when I first arrived here was how friendly people are, but structurally speaking, I couldn't ignore the city (is) incredibly segregated," Garnett said. "So, when I think of that in the context of the museum, I think about how do we use the museum space to cut down those walls that have kept people apart from each other?"


His goal is to help the museum develop programs that will engage communities from diverse backgrounds, including those under-served.

"​Part of that is thinking of what community engagement looks like," he said. "What does the work in exhibition look like? What does internships look like? Best practices and so forth."

Diversity and inclusion roles are becoming more common. reports a 123% increase in such positions between March of 2020 and May 2021.

"We really find in the research is that an inclusive environment really propels the creativity of the workforce as a whole," Assistant Professor of Business at UW-Milwaukee Keimei Sugiyama said.

Sugiyama says cultural diversity in the workplace goes beyond just optics, and it is important that people leading these efforts are supported by their peers in the workplace.

"That social support from the other leaders is so important, as well as backing up the legitimacy of the position with accesses to resources that they can make a difference," Sugiyama said.

Garnett says this is an opportunity for the museum to become more than a place to revisit culture. He says, it will be a place for people from all corners of town to experience it and one another.

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