INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as a syndrome resulting from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Security analysts are known for being at a high risk for burnout, which can lead to mistakes and increased vulnerability for the organization. As a former security operations center (SOC) analyst, I remember all too vividly the long shifts, the constant influx of alerts, the minimal room for error, and never seeming to have enough resources to do the job.
In the time since my days on the front lines of security, these issues have only been exacerbated by more alerts being generated by the myriad of threat detection and prevention tools that teams must leverage, an evolving and growing surface area to protect increasingly sophisticated bad actors, and a massive cybersecurity skills shortage. If all of that isn’t stressful enough, today’s security analyst is often working from home and trying to manage personal stress in an unprecedented situation.
In the wake of a global pandemic and civil unrest across the United States—and the world—we are all consuming a lot of information. Some of it is work-related, but a lot of it is not and bad actors are taking advantage.
For example, we have seen a huge increase in the number of phishing emails exploiting our trust relationships with organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the WHO, and state and local governments.
But it’s not just the constant phishing attempts that are challenging, it’s the fact that adversaries know we are distracted. We are watching what’s happening around the world, trying to homeschool our kids, and helping our parents—or significant others—all while many businesses are in the fights of their lives. With so much going on both personally and professionally, the risk for burnout is higher than ever.
The number one way to begin conquering burnout within your own team is to increase its efficiency and overall effectiveness. If I were managing a SOC right now, before assessing new solutions or vendors I would ask these three questions:
1. How do you set people up for success and reduce opportunities for mistakes?
2. How do you ensure work is being done in a consistent and repeatable way?
3. How do you make sure the work that has to get done is actually getting done?
In short, focus on what you have to do and make sure the processes you must execute are effective, efficient, and have guardrails for an inevitably distracted team.
Start small. Define your incident response processes with documented standard operating procedures. Identify simple workflows or manual tasks that can be automated now. Set target metrics and key performance indicators, and generate real-time reports to track progress so you can pivot when necessary.
Automation is a crucial tool that can help increase the overall efficacy of your SOC. When it is combined with strong processes and documented procedures, your team is set up for success—minimizing stress and maximizing productivity.
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Reposted from AAM
The authenticity of an organization’s actions to advance diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) is judged by two key factors: their consistency and comprehensiveness. Companies that have been commended on their approach to racial justice, like Ben & Jerry’s, have been so because their efforts began before and will endure beyond when DEAI is in the spotlight on national news. Their commitment permeates the entire institution, from internal people practices, to supportive action with external partners, to their supply chain and products. And while Ben & Jerry’s readily admits that they still have room to grow and improve, their long-standing support of racial justice has garnered them widespread legitimacy in a national landscape where Americans remain divided on the genuineness of corporate responses to social issues.
Unfortunately, organizations like these are the exception. Many long-standing and widespread practices are directly at odds with advancing DEAI in the workforce, even at times when boards and CEOs are making external statements of commitment to racial justice. One example, which I would like to explore here, is that personal relationships often play a role in getting certain resumes to the top of the pile, or getting an “extra look” in the college admissions process for legacy students. Yet access to those critical relationships has never been equitably distributed. More often than not, these “recommendations” reinforce the advantages that uphold structural inequities, by lifting up those candidates already benefiting from the status quo, while blocking others who are already at the margins.
Over the course of my career, whenever a board member or senior leader has recommended a candidate to me for an open role, that candidate has typically been white, upper class, and from a select set of educational institutions. Regardless of the virtue of the recommenders’ intention, every time they put forth a candidate part of groups already overrepresented in the current workforce, they make it that much more difficult to advance racial equity on teams across the organization. Because of the power dynamics at play, their “suggestion” is often taken as much more than one—if I get a proposed candidate from a board member, I’m essentially receiving a request from someone in power who holds the purse strings to my job and livelihood. Though it is certainly conceivable not to move forward with the candidates they propose, it is not outside the realm of possibility that continuously denying these requests could lead to consequences, be they interpersonal or professional.
The effect is particularly damaging at smaller organizations where the number of open positions are few and turnover is low, meaning opportunities to meaningfully advance racial equity in the workforce are relatively rare unless people leave. This kind of nepotism can therefore seriously stymie DEAI efforts, even when those in leadership positions make claims acknowledging their importance.
In order to shift this paradigm, organizations should consider the following:
Most importantly, organizations must model institutional goals around workforce diversity and racial justice at every level, all the time. It is not enough for us to put forth statements of solidarity without backing them up with consistent and concrete action. This starts by changing internal practices that continue to preference the well-networked and by “calling in” leaders whose actions get in the way of real change. Shifting this paradigm requires a deeper understanding of our own roles in advancing racial justice and creating a more equitable playing field, by recognizing age-old practices of privileging personal connections as a form of nepotism that perpetuates racial inequity. Our actions must align with the organizations our words say we want, so that we may actually become them.
Reposted from Artnet News
On August 27, three days after getting the green light from New York State, the Museum of Modern Art reopened to the public, with mandatory reservations, limited capacity, and new safety protocols in place. But museum staff has already been back for weeks: unlike many other art institutions across the city, MoMA required that all employees resume working on site in staggered shifts beginning July 6, the same day the city entered phase three of its reopening.
“The heart of the museum’s mission is being accessible to the public,” reads a message to staff on MoMA’s Returning to the Workplace webpage. “This requires us to reactivate our building, and be physically present to interact with our visitors, space, and collection.”
In order to keep working exclusively from home, staff members had to provide documentation demonstrating insurmountable childcare challenges or medical conditions that put them at an increased risk from the virus—and were required to reapply for these exemptions ahead of Labor Day.
That decision has proven controversial among some staff members, who contend that the institution’s response to the pandemic and its approach to reopening are intrinsically linked to problems that have come under the microscope across the museum sector in recent months: structural racism and inequitable treatment of workers.
“We’re here to serve the public and we want to be available to people, but the entire return to work policy has been framed in a really punitive way, and not taking into account the real concerns about the virus,” one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, told Artnet News.
“It almost feels like there are more staff here right now than there are visitors,” another worker, also speaking anonymously, told Artnet News. “There is not much actual reason for us to be at the museum right now.”
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the country this summer, many museums have faced calls to look inward and to address issues of racial discrimination. At the same time, the ongoing push toward unionization within the field, coupled with widespread layoffs and furloughs in an increasingly cash-strapped sector, has raised new concerns about how institutions treat their staffs.
To date, MoMA has avoided making headlines like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, both of which unveiled new equity and diversity plans in the face of public criticism.
But behind closed doors, similar concerns have been raised at MoMA. On June 11, the museum’s education department sent a letter to senior leadership and the president of the board of trustees outlining 11 concrete steps the museum should take to combat structural racism, including the formation of a cross-departmental Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion task force.
In an all-staff email on June 22, MoMA director Glenn Lowry announced that he had formed a steering committee made up of BIPOC staff from across departments. A museum representative told Artnet News that the committee was formed “in response to a museum-wide commitment to prioritize anti-racism in all aspects of our work” and has “a combined tenure of 68 years experience at MoMA.”
The education department had also asked that its letter be shared with the entire MoMA staff, which it was not. As staff returned to work on site on July 6, a larger group of employees—229 staff members across 30 departments—sent a follow-up email to the full workforce expressing concern with the reopening procedures and what they saw as the museum’s lack of action regarding anti-racism efforts.
“The current plan, though framed in the name of equity, does not adequately consider the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has on the health, safety, and well-being of Black frontline staff and communities of color living in an already inequitable system of white supremacy,” the letter stated. “Black frontline, non-management staff members have not been meaningfully involved in MoMA’s decision-making around the pandemic, despite the fact that many of these staff members have continued to physically work at the museum since March.”
The museum, meanwhile, has suggested it has gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of workers. To help devise safe reopening procedures, it hired Bernard Camins, the director for infection prevention for the Mount Sinai Health System, as a consultant.
Under Camins’s guidance, MoMA “implemented staff health questionnaires, temperature checks, PPE and social distancing requirements and new health and safety workflows, configurations of the workspaces, and protocols in the galleries,” a museum rep said.
MoMA also co-led the city museums reopening task force, a coalition of top museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney that formed to develop uniform safety measures. But unlike MoMA, many of its peer institutions, including the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum, are instructing office workers to continue doing their jobs remotely where possible.
MoMA is operating with office staff at just 50 percent capacity (all employees rotate in and out), but, sources contend, different employees face vastly different degrees of risk. Some workers live close enough to walk or bike (Lowry lives in an on-campus apartment provided as part of his compensation), but others have hour-long subway commutes that greatly increase their potential exposure to the virus. And those disparities don’t go away once workers set foot in the museum.
“Senior leaders can go into their office and close their doors and not see anyone for the rest of the day,” said the first MoMA employee. “People on the front lines have to interact with the public.”
In what some staff described as a heated Zoom staff meeting on June 29, Lowry insisted that having all staff on site was a matter of solidarity. “The idea that some of us can work at home because what? We’re better educated? We’re white? We’re privileged? You make up the reason why we think we can work at home, but others of us actually have to be at work,” he said in a recording obtained by Artnet News. “That’s not the institution I want to be part of. I think we’re all in it together.”
“While some of us might be able to argue we never have to be in the museum to still do our work, that’s not equity—that’s the opposite of equity,” Lowry added. “To suggest somehow that one population can be at risk, and another population shouldn’t be at risk to make it less risky for the population that’s at risk, is absolutely crazy.”
Some employees felt Lowry’s attitude skirted the real dangers posed by MoMA’s approach. “Equity is looking at how we are all affected differently and trying to find a solution that gives us all the same opportunities for better outcomes—as opposed to equality, which gives us the same solution, but where our outcomes are still affected by our context,” a third MoMA staffer said. “As a Black staff member, I’m extremely aware of how my community has been impacted by COVID.”
The third employee recalled a recent virtual all-hands meeting that offered a stark example of the divisions within the staff. “There was this really laughable moment when we were asked to applaud for all the security officers and none of them were on the call—like one person from security was on the call!” the employee said. “The health and safety discourse can’t be divorced from the lack of movement on race and racism at the museum—they are totally bound up with each other.”
As the museum prepared to welcome back the public, it hung a new sign in the lobby listing the names of MoMA’s essential workers, thanking them for their continued work throughout the crisis. To some, the move felt like an empty gesture after the museum stopped offering hazard pay in July. (MoMA did not answer inquiries regarding hazard pay.)
“It starts to feel like this is being done in order to ease the trustees’ anxieties,” the second worker said. “Getting all of us back to the museum gives the board a sense the museum is operational and will at some point go back to being more financially self-sustaining.”
MoMA has yet to disclose a projected deficit resulting from the closure, but the lockdown has placed unprecedented pressure on its balance sheet. “We all have to recognize that we have to be present, and that at some point the money is going to run out if we can’t get the museum up and running,” Lowry said in the staff Zoom meeting.
Before lockdown, and on the heels of its $400 million renovation, which was unveiled in October 2019 after a four-month closure, MoMA offered an early-retirement program. A spokesperson described it as “a generous offer keeping in mind long-serving senior staff who worked hard to finish the years-long building project… and who might have otherwise taken an earlier voluntary retirement program.” A similar offer was extended after the 2004 expansion; about 40 employees signed on this time around.
Now, with Lowry enacting a $45 million budget cut, down to $135 million from $180 million, sources at the museum tell Artnet News that MoMA has also introduced a voluntary buyout package. The hope is that buyouts, in conjunction with leaving 60 open positions unfilled, will allow MoMA to eliminate 220 positions without layoffs (other than the 85 museum educator contracts terminated in March).
“Like other museums in New York City and across the country, this pandemic and its economic impact is the most serious financial crisis we’ve ever faced,” said MoMA’s spokesperson. “We will continue to look for ways to bring costs down, to maximize revenues, and to push through this fiscal crisis.”
The museum did not offer any comment on the terms of the buyout, but some staff members are not appreciative of the offer.
“People are faced with the possibility of either forcibly losing their jobs or having to take a buyout package,” the first employee said. “Or coming into the office to risk their life, when they could do their work perfectly fine from home.”
Reposted from The Washington Post
In an action streamed live on Facebook, a group of activists took a Congolese funeral statue from a Dutch museum, saying they were recovering art looted during the colonial era. The activists were quickly arrested and the statue returned undamaged, the museum said Friday.
The Afrika Museum said in a statement that the statue was removed Thursday from the museum located in Berg en Dal, near the eastern Dutch city of Nijmegen.
One of the Black rights activists, Mwazulu Diyabanza, said in a post on Facebook that the removal of the statue was “part of the recovery of our artworks that were ALL acquired by looting, robbery, violence” in colonial times.
The incident came amid continuing anger at symbols of colonialism and slavery in the United States and Europe after George Floyd’s death while in police custody led to global protests against racial injustice.
The statue action in the Netherlands came the day that prosecutors in neighboring Belgium said that a tooth presumed to be from Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba would soon be handed back to his relatives after years of lobbying efforts.
In June, five protesters, including Congo-born Diyabanza, were stopped before they could leave the Quai Branly Museum in Paris with a 19th century African funeral pole and placed under investigation by French prosecutors.
The Dutch museum said that to avoid a conflict that could have caused damage to the statue, its security officers did not prevent the activists from leaving the building with the artifact as they knew police were nearby.
The Facebook livestream ended with police handcuffing one of the activists on a road near the museum. Diyabanza did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment that was left on his cellphone voicemail Friday.
The Afrika Museum is part of a group of Dutch museums that last year published a set of principles for handling claims on cultural objects in their collections. A spokesperson for the museums could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reposted from The Flathead Beacon
A man suspected of starting several arson fires in the Pablo area is dead after barricading himself inside The People’s Center and setting it ablaze on Sunday, Sept. 6.
The body of Julian Michael Draper, 33, was discovered inside a back office at the museum, educational and community center owned and operated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Firefighters arrived on the scene late Sunday evening unaware that anyone was inside the building and found Draper’s body when they broke out a window as part of their fire containment efforts.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Draper died. His body has been sent to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for further analysis.
The People’s Center was constructed in the early 1990s to house cultural artifacts significant to the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes, and the fire destroyed a number of “irreplaceable” items, according to Shelly Fyant, the Chairwoman of the CSKT Tribal Council and a former director of The People’s Center.
“I was in shock. It’s so devastating,” Fyant said of her reaction when she first received the news. “That was my baby, you know? I feel like I birthed that center in between my two kids … it’s just so devastating to see all those years of work and collecting history and artifacts and family heirlooms (destroyed).”
Fyant and current director Marie Torosian said the fire appeared to have started in the back office area before spreading to a repository where a number of artifacts were burned, including historic photographs, Eagle-feathered bustles, bone-and-bead breastplates, beaded moccasins and vests, and a collection of beaded bags. Employees are just beginning the process of sorting through the damage and will be consulting with experts from around the state in an effort to preserve or restore as many damaged items as possible.
Torosian said she will be establishing an online fundraiser to assist in the preservation and restoration efforts that lie ahead.
“It’s my hope and my goal to take what we have left and try and rebuild a facility and open back up again and continue to do our work,” she said.
Not every area of the building burned, however, and the fire mostly spared the facility’s museum and educational center, preserving dozens of one-of-a-kind pieces that were on display, including a vest worn by Salish Chief Charlo that was donated just two years ago. Torosian said she and others were allowed in the building for the first time on Monday and that the sight of the museum and educational center still intact brought her to tears.
No determination has been made on the viability of the building itself, which Torosian described as a “sturdy structure” that nonetheless suffered major damage. Firefighters at one point used a bulldozer to break through a concrete exterior wall in order to gain entrance to the facility, something made more complicated by Draper’s efforts to barricade himself inside. Torosian and Lake County Sheriff Don Bell said Draper lived nearby but otherwise had no formal connection to the facility.
The fire Draper set was apparently the second he started on Sunday, according to Bell, who said Draper was seen running from a nearby storage shop that was set on fire shortly before the blaze at The People’s Center. Less than two weeks earlier, on Aug. 26, Draper was arrested and charged with arson after he ignited a small wild land fire near the former Plum Creek sawmill in Pablo, less than a block from Sunday’s fires. Draper was out on bond at the time of his death.
Bell said no clear motive for the fires has been discovered.
Reposted from CNN
A woman barred from entering one of France's most prestigious art galleries apparently because she was wearing a low-cut dress has received an apology after sharing details of the incident on social media.
The Musee d'Orsay in Paris tweeted its regrets after the woman, identified only as "Jeanne," also took to Twitter to accuse the museum -- home to some of the world's most famous nude paintings -- of "double standards."
Jeanne, who shared an image of herself taken on the same day, says she was initially denied entry while visiting Musee d'Orsay with a friend during a warm day in the French capital.
After questioning why she wasn't allowed inside, the museum's staff apparently pointed to her cleavage, leaving her "excruciatingly embarrassed."
"Arriving at the entrance of the museum, I don't have time to take out my ticket before the sight of my breasts and my appearance shocks an officer in charge of reservations," Jeanne writes of the female officer's reaction.
"At this moment, I am still unaware of the fact that my cleavage has become the subject of this controversy."
Another officer, this time from security, eventually told her that she had broken the museum's rules.
Jeanne says staff told her that "rules were rules" and she would need to cover herself up before going inside.
While the guidelines on the museum's website state that a visitor "wearing an outfit susceptible to disturbing the peace," can be denied entry, it doesn't specify what type of clothing would warrant this.
"I do not want to put on my jacket because I feel beaten, obliged, I am ashamed, I have the impression that everyone is looking at my breasts," she says.
At this point, the friend accompanying her pointed out that her midriff was on display and questioned why Jeanne was being singled out.
Jeanne says she eventually agreed to put her jacket on, and she and her friend were permitted to enter.
"Inside: paintings of naked women, sculptures of naked women, artists advocating as well as engaging," she continued, pointing out that many of the other visitors were also wearing skimpy clothing.
Jeanne went on to criticize the museum's staff for "discriminating on the basis of cleavage."
"I question the coherence with which the representatives of a national museum can prohibit access to knowledge and culture on the basis of an arbitrary judgment determining if the appearance of someone is decent," she says.
"I am not just my breasts, I am not just a body, your double standards will not be an obstacle to my access to culture and knowledge."
In its apology, posted on Twitter, Musee d'Orsay said it had reached out to Jeanne.
"We have taken note of an incident that occurred with a visitor during her visit to the Musée d'Orsay," it reads, before stating that the museum "profoundly regrets" what happened and has contacted the "concerned person" to apologize.
Edouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" and Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World" are among the many famous works depicting nudity that are on display at the museum.
CNN has contacted the Musee d'Orsay and Jeanne for comment.
When the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York reopened to members on August 27 after five months of closure, eager visitors with masks lined up on carefully marked social-distancing indicators outside the museum’s glass doors.
When one museum-goer in the lobby asked where visitors would get their temperatures taken, museum COO Amy Roth replied: “You already did.”
Thanks to a tripod-mounted thermal-imaging camera that scans visitors as they walk through the vestibule, those checks happen automatically.
And that’s just one of many new precautions that resulted from an unprecedented alliance of 25 New York cultural institutions across all five boroughs that formed make sense of how to reopen after the citywide museum shutdown in March.
“We knew there would be guidance from the government, but we didn’t know what that would be,” Roth tells Artnet News.
What museums did know was that they would have to figure out some things for themselves. The government, for instance, was unlikely to weigh in on whether handing out audio-visual headsets would be okay in an era of extreme hygienic caution.
The museums “determined that we were better served working together” to answer those and many other questions, Roth says, noting that the institutions were inspired by the way hospitals had begun to collaborate since the onset of the pandemic.
Many of the discussions revolved around how to develop uniform safety measures across the institutions, so that “visitors wouldn’t see a major difference between a visit to the Whitney, and say, MoMA, or the Queens Museum.” Differences, she says, “lead to doubt, and feelings of discomfort if the standard of care is different.”
The first museum task force meeting, which took place in April, had about 15 institutions participating, and grew from there. Weekly meetings are still held each Wednesday.
“It turns out reopening a museum is much harder than closing one,” says Laurel Britton, senior vice president of revenue and operations at the Met, which has been part of the task force from the start.
The Met also has its own internal task force of 12 that has been meeting each day for the past four months. That group came together to solve a host of related issues: Staff reentry, visitor reentry, and physical circulation. One of its first steps, in June, was to poll staff on everything from returning to the workplace, to commuting, to continuing to work from home.
“We found that many staff needed to be reassured we were going to open the building in as safe a manner as possible,” Britton says, noting that workers were fairly evenly split between those who were comfortable with returning, those who were not, and those who felt neutral about the issue. (Upon the Met’s reopening, one visitor experience employee told Artnet News they were feeling “a little uneasy,” but pleased that “so far the museum seems to be making the right choices,” while another New York museum staffer said they felt museums should remain closed.)
The bottom line? “Communicating with staff and doing it early, was critical,” Britton says.
The Met also had to deal with the logistics of signage. With a space of its size—at roughly 58,800 square feet, it’s the largest museum in the US—workers needed to place about 800 social-distancing reminders throughout the building.
But one big issue was keeping up with changing regulations. In July, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that museums would have to remain closed even as New York City entered the fourth phase of its reopening on the 20th of that month.
“All the goalposts kept moving,” Britton says. Throughout that time, the Met kept in touch with local and state officials. “The goal for us was never to pressure people to allow us to reopen, but to show them that we’re doing everything we can to meet the requirements for when we are given the green light,” Britton says.
On the museums’ opening days, one thing became crystal clear: The Whitney and the Met, two world-renowned institutions, were going to become local museums, at least for the time being. On its first day, the Met reported roughly 8,400 ticketed visitors—a far cry from the usual summer high of 25,000 visitors a day. The Met’s post-COVID capacity is capped at 14,000.
And perhaps not surprisingly, given all the travel restrictions, 80 percent of the visitors on opening weekend were from New York City. Pre-lockdown, roughly 70 percent of daily visitors came from outside the city.
The Whitney, meanwhile, drew 2,700 visitors over the five days of its member preview, and more than 500 on the first day. The museum is currently capped at 25 percent capacity.
The next step? Keep working at it, says Roth. The Whitney is now in touch with peer institutions looking to reopen in the weeks and months ahead.
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
The Smithsonian Institution and the Parrish Art Museum confirmed today that they were among the hundreds of organisations potentially affected by a ransomware attack earlier this year on a third-party software company in South Carolina that logs their data regarding fundraising and donors.
The hack on the systems of the software company, Blackbaud, gave an intruder access to information about donors and other constituents, including names, US addresses, phone numbers, summaries of donations and for some individuals, dates of birth, the Smithsonian says. The institution says it has begun notifying people linked to the Smithsonian whose information may have been accessible.
Previous news reports have identified other organisations whose data was potentially compromised as UK’s National Trust, Human Rights Watch, dozens of charities and universities in the UK and US, and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
The Smithsonian emphasises that the incident did not result in the exposure of any credit card information, Social Security numbers or banking information, saying that it does not collect or store this type of data.
Blackbaud says that after discovering the attack on its systems in May, it paid the hacker or hackers the ransom demanded, which it did not disclose. “We have no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused; or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly,” the software company adds.
The Smithsonian says it was informed of the data breach on 16 July, just as other institutions were being alerted, and recently reached out to donors. “Based on the nature of the incident, Blackbaud assured us that any stolen data has been destroyed by the unknown actor and stated they do not believe any data was disseminated or otherwise made available publicly by the unknown actor,” the Smithsonian says. “We will continue to investigate to confirm Blackbaud’s assurances and better understand what occurred.”
The potential compromising of Smithsonian and Parrish Art Museum data was first reported by artnet News. Both the Smithsonian and the Parrish, in Water Mill, New York, subsequently confirmed the exposure of their data in emails to The Art Newspaper.
Reposted from Hyperallergic
It was a sentimental day for staff and visitors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York yesterday, August 27, when the museum opened its doors for the first time after long months of COVID-19 shutdown. With limited capacity, temperature checks, mandatory mask-wearing, a sea of hand sanitizing stations, and signage for social distancing at every corner, the museum welcomed back its art-starved members before reopening for all visitors Saturday, August 29. For those who might still hesitate to take the subway or bus to visit the Met, the museum will start offering a free bike valet service tomorrow.
“Isn’t this fabulous? It’s a return to sanity,” said Peggy Dodson, a Met member of five years who was pacing through the museum’s Great Hall, her eyes wide with excitement.
“I used to come here a couple of times a week on a normal basis just to decompress from everything in the city,” Dodson, who runs a media company in NYC, told Hyperallergic. “When the museum was shut down, I had been in agony. It was emotionally and mentally stressful.”
“The opening is a sign for me that there’s something solid under my feet,” Dodson added. “Now I feel I can go through the rest of the year.”
Dodson’s words were representative of the general atmosphere at the museum, which saw a steady stream of excited members coming through its doors between noon and 7pm yesterday.
“I saw some visitors bursting in cheers when they entered the museum,” Annie Bailis, a Senior Manager for Media Relations at the Met, told Hyperallergic. “We all feel emotional.”
Abiding by the state’s reopening regulations, the Met capped admission to 2,000 visitors per hour and 14,000 per day to allow for proper social distancing. Before entering the museum, visitors were directed to two tents on both sides of the Met’s main steps — now flanked by two huge banners by Yoko Ono that read “Dream Together” — where staff in face shields administered temperature checks.
Inside, movement throughout the museum’s 440 galleries was mostly free, except when entering Making The Met, 1870–2020, an exhibition for the museum’s 15oth anniversary, where capacity was limited. A long line of visitors trailed in front of the gallery.
Visitors can expect more changes as they return to the museum on Saturday. For example, restroom capacity is limited to three people at a time, and elevator capacity is limited to two, with priority for people with disabilities.
Inside Making the Met, Mitch Marois, a Broadway theater worker, was inspecting a portrait of a Victorian woman in a blue dress that closely matched with his blue-dyed hair.
“The Met is my happy place,” he said. “There’s something so comforting about this place. It feels like home.” Marois added that he needs this comforting feeling as his industry remains shut down. “Reopening theatres won’t be as simple,” he said.
Reopening the Met may not have been as “simple” as Marois said, but the museum’s 2.2 million square feet of galleries did allow for a safe distance from other visitors.
In the Modern and Contemporary Art wing, Paola Roa and Rick Garcia, two immigrants from Colombia, were visibly excited. The two were part of a group of English language students on a field trip with their tutor, Joel Nunez.
“I’m speechless,” said Roa. “I never thought I could find myself almost alone with the art at the Met.”
Roa and Garcia have both been living in New York for two years. They have plans to join universities in the city and start new careers.
A popular destination for many members was the new exhibition TheAmerican Struggle, featuring lesser-known works by the modernist painter Jacob Lawrence. The paintings and sketches on view come from Lawrence’s series Struggle: From the History of the American People(1954–56). Small in scale but monumental in style, the works mark historic episodes in American history, like McCarthyism and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that called for the desegregation of public schools.
Photography’s Last Century, an exhibition that opened two days before the lockdown in March and was subsequently extended to November 30, was also bustling with visitors. The exhibition includes photographic works by Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy, Diane Arbus, and Cindy Sherman, among many others. They are part of a collection of 60 photographs gifted to the Met by Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee for the museum’s 150 anniversary.
Jane, a retired New Yorker from Queens, was taking a break on a bench in the Greek and Roman Art section when she told Hyperallergic: “I missed coming here. It’s been five and a half months with no culture. This is the first opportunity to look at something not associated with the virus.”
Queens was one of New York’s hardest-hit boroughs during the early months of the pandemic, and according to Jane, “It still is a hotspot.” But gesturing with her hand over her forehead, she said, “I’ve had up to here with this virus.”
The general consensus among the Met members who spoke with Hyperallergic is that they felt safe inside the museum. Fast to adapt to the “new normal,” they reported that as long as other visitors remained disciplined in maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing, the risk felt minor. Visiting the Met felt safer than daily activities like shopping at the local supermarket or riding the subway, according to some.
At the entrance to the museum, José Rivera, the Met’s Deputy Chief Security Officer, was overseeing this massive reopening operation with relative calm.
“Everybody seems to be complying with the social distancing rules and they’re all wearing their face coverings,” Rivera told Hyperallergic.
Rivera is one of the museum’s longest-serving guards. On Sunday, he will celebrate his 31st year at the museum. But this will also be his last year at the Met, as he accepted a voluntary retirement package offered to him by the museum during the last round of staff reductions.
Reflecting back on his years at the museum, he said, “We’ve had rough periods in the past, like the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy, but nothing compares to what this pandemic has caused.”
An illustrator by training, Rivera said that he plans fo fully dedicate himself to his art after his retirement. Until then, he said that his main concern is to make the Met’s return to full activity “as seamless as possible.”
When asked if he encourages people to come to visit the museum, Rivera answered with a wink: “I want people to come back, just not all on the same day.”
When we talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion in museums, we have a usual list of groups we mention: Black and Indigenous people, other people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, unhoused people, socioeconomically disadvantaged people, and formerly incarcerated people. To be sure, all of these groups deserve equity and inclusion in our field, but I have noticed that one group is frequently left off the list: disabled people. This is a problem, given how woven people with disabilities are into the fabric of our nation. According to the CDC, 26 percent of Americans have a disability, and many more of us will experience at least a temporary disabling event in our lifetime, especially as we age.
Sometimes organizations will add “accessibility” into their initiatives and use the acronym DEAI, as AAM does, but this does not always result in inclusion of disabled staff or visitors. Especially in times of rapid change, such as the coronavirus pandemic, even the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be overlooked, as organizations and institutions simply forget about the participation of disabled staff and visitors.
During the pandemic, our field has done a tremendous job pivoting to online communication, but it has not always centered accessibility. For museum workers, the vast majority of webinars and online happy hours do not offer captions, making them inaccessible to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. For audiences, many of the tours and applications hosting virtual content are incompatible with screen reader software, making them inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision. These are basic, well-known accommodations which should be provided at the outset, yet the burden is still on disabled people to request them, often with great effort.
On the other hand, the digital pivot has also improved museum accessibility for some disabled visitors—those who could not have come to our institutions due to mobility disabilities or other health reasons, but can participate in online offerings. After the pandemic is over, will our institutions remember to include these visitors in their outreach efforts?
There is a good way to remember to center accessibility for disabled members of our community: hire more disabled people. But, unfortunately, the museum field has been as reluctant as the rest of American employers to do so—many disabled people struggle to find work in most sectors. While special appointing authorities for disabled workers exist for federal government positions, there is no such consideration at the vast majority of museums.
Even programs explicitly designed to increase diversity in museum hiring often leave out disabled people. One example came up at this year’s AAM Virtual Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, on a panel about a museum’s diversity apprenticeship program. The museum did not include disability as one of the categories for applicants, and so received only one application from a self-identified disabled person—a hard-of-hearing applicant who was not selected for the program. In fact, the presenters stated that they had consulted with human resources to determine if disabled people could even do the work of a preparator—how could someone safely handle art if they were missing a hand, or receive instructions from behind if they were Deaf?
It is often able-bodied hiring teams’ lack of awareness or imagination that prevents disabled people from getting jobs in museums, not the disabilities themselves. Accommodations exist that make the work possible for a variety of disabilities—even if the employee has only one hand, or is Deaf—but if the people creating the program cannot imagine those accommodations, they will omit disabled candidates from consideration. For that reason, the disability community has used the phrase “Nothing About Us Without Us” since the 1990s to emphasize that empowering people with disabilities to make their own decisions (such as whether they are able to do a particular job or not) is an essential part of their full participation in their communities.
If we are to move into the future as a society, as DEAI efforts urge us to, museums must include disabled people in their hiring practices. If we do not achieve equity in our hiring practices, how can we achieve equity in our service to visitors? If we do not make accommodations for disabled employees in our workplaces and professional events, how can we make accommodations for our visitors?
Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, wrote in 2019 that museums have “enormously positive potential…to strengthen communities, make places better, and do things of many kinds for people.” If we are looking to the future—to new museum definitions, new roles in our communities, and new responsibilities to our visitors as a result of the pandemic—then “many kinds of people” must include everyone.
DEAI means everyone who is marginalized gets a seat at the table. If the table starts to feel overcrowded, we are responsible for adjusting the seats and making more space, until everyone who has been left out has the room they need—even if it’s for a mobility device, guide dog, interpreter, or any other accommodation.
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