This week, museum professionals from around the United States are gathered in Phoenix, Arizona for the annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Together, they’re exploring the many ways that museums of all kinds serve as hubs of community activation and learning.
The annual meeting is a meaningful destination for Science Museum staff every year, but this year’s event is special for one specific reason. At this afternoon’s opening session, the Science Museum’s own Joanne Jones-Rizzi, vice president of STEM Equity and Education, received AAM’s prestigious Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) Award.
The DEAI Awards celebrate individuals, organizations, and programs that are advancing the museum field in the areas of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion - both internally through workplace culture, programs, and policies, and externally with museum audiences and communities. Each year’s winners have demonstrated sustained support for advancing related initiatives, raised awareness, and served as a catalyst for change.
Throughout her decades-long career, Joanne has focused on achieving systemic, ecological change within museums, specializing in expanding meaningful access through exhibitions relevant to audiences who do not yet think of museums as their cultural institutions.
Early in her career in museums, Joanne was an exhibit developer at the Boston Children’s Museum, where she co-developed exhibits like The Kid’s Bridge, an exhibition about identity, ethnicity, and race, and Boston Black: A City Connects, which celebrates the remarkable diversity of Boston’s Black community. Here at the Science Museum, Joanne was a driving force behind the award-winning RACE: Are We So Different?exhibition. Over its 10-year national tour, RACE has been seen by over four million people at more than 50 museums in 27 states. Her work has also shaped the museum’s access and equity programs, its Science Fusion event series, the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center, and much, much more. She is the recipient of several awards for her anti-racism work, including a Facing Race Ambassador Award from the Saint Paul Foundation. She advises museums nationally and internationally on culture, identity, anti-racism, exhibition development, and community engagement.
Joanne’s work has positioned the Science Museum as a safe and supportive setting for important dialogue about how science and culture offer powerful perspectives for addressing critical community issues. In talking to one another and in elevating voices that have historically been suppressed by the noise of an unjust system, Joanne has shown us that we can work together to lift up our communities.
“Joanne’s work is a shining example of what museums can do - and must do - to advance important conversations about equity and inclusion in our communities,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, in a press release it issued on Monday about Joanne's award. “We’re proud to recognize Joanne, and we want her example to inspire others in our field to lend their voices and talents to this critical priority.”
Thank you, Joanne, for your bold vision and your insightful leadership. We are so proud of your achievement – today and every day.