INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
As COVID-19 approaches its two-year anniversary, security and risk management professionals would be wise to reflect on past failures in hopes of making our society antifragile to future global calamities.
Antifragility is the property of a system or organization that aims to increase its strength and resilience as the system encounters shocks, stressors, or volatility. The term was coined by Nassim Taleb, an academic who raised the alarm on COVID-19 months before it devastated North America.
To enable the security industry to better prepare for future events, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about risk, and Taleb has more lessons to share.
Before 2008, Nassim Nicholas Taleb was known within finance and statistics circles as an expert (a title he would likely bemoan) in risk, uncertainty, and probability. He made a fortune as an institutional trader during the market crash of 1987 and later added to his wealth by independently using financial derivatives to bet against the markets in the run-up to both the 2001 dotcom bubble bursting and the 2007-2008 housing and financial crisis. In 2001, he wrote Fooled by Randomness, part one of his five-volume philosophical essay on uncertainty—Incerto. Taleb would go on to write The Black Swan (2007), The Bed of Procrustes (2010), Antifragile (2012), and Skin in the Game (2019).
The Black Swan catapulted Taleb to international stardom, mostly resulting from his accurate prediction of the ensuing 2008 financial collapse. While the book offers a complex examination into epistemology, the failures of human cognition, and the inability to adequately measure and react to risk, the underlying concept is that most events in daily life are common, easily anticipated, and inconsequential. Nevertheless, certain extreme events (black swans) have major impacts on our world, often transforming the way we think about everything afterward.
The original use of the black swan concept significantly predates Taleb and describes events that were incredibly rare. Semantically, the black swan metaphor has its origins in the idea of empirical falsifiability; if someone were to make the statement that “only white swans exist,” one would need to either examine every white swan in the world (a tedious task) or, conversely, see a single black swan to falsify the original statement.
Taleb expanded the metaphor: a black swan event is one that has massive consequences and is unpredictable. However, when such an event occurs, it suddenly becomes retroactively explainable or predictable. Taleb’s theory helps explain how such rare events fall under the radar, so to speak, of even the greatest experts and powerful governments. It is also used to describe how psychological biases tend to blind people in their assessment of risk.
Some notable examples of black swan events—according to Taleb—are the 1987 market crash, the Russian financial default of 1998, the dotcom bubble of 2001, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Notice that COVID-19 was not listed with the other black swan examples above. On talk shows and webinars over the past two years, Taleb has repeatedly corrected hosts who call the pandemic a black swan event. Instead, he says, COVID-19 is a white swan.
While the COVID-19 outbreak was rare and continues to have massive consequences, the world has witnessed dozens of deadly pandemics over the past centuries. More importantly, the next large pandemic had been widely predicted by various experts and scholars. For instance, the tennis championships at Wimbledon paid $1.9 million per year for pandemic insurance over the past 17 years, which paid out $141 million in 2020, Forbes reported.
Despite COVID-19’s ineligibility to join the black swan club, Taleb’s work is still incredibly applicable. Nearly two years after the emergence of COVID-19, the quality of political and public discourse still sows confusion and doubt in the minds of many concerning what policy measures are right or wrong, trivial or consequential. Instead of trying to patch pre-existing problems with systems currently in place, we need to make our systems more robust to future shocks (antifragility).
An antifragile system is better off after a shock. The good news is that the world today is far more robust and prepared for future pandemics than we were one or two years ago. Some industries are also much stronger today as a result of the pandemic. Healthcare has become more antifragile by investing in supply chain management, home delivery services, and redesigning just-in-time system infrastructure to hold more inventory. These had been a huge risk management blind spot prior to COVID-19, despite the commercial savings that could have been associated with them.
The bad news is that there are still too many unknowns around economics and health to understand how the current pandemic will affect the ability to deal with future non-pandemic shocks. To better prepare for the shock to global norms, it behooves security professionals to go beyond black swans and discern some of Taleb's other valuable lessons.
The global effects of COVID-19 were preventable. Had countries shut everything down in January 2020, even for a limited time, the virus would not have spread the way it did. Subsidizing the financial loss of airlines back in January 2020 would have paled in comparison to the trillions lost around the world in subsequent months. In a mid-2020 interview with Bloomberg, Taleb said of governments and corporations: “They didn’t want to spend pennies, now they need to spend trillions.” In early 2020, many experts argued that there was little to no evidence that COVID-19 was harmful, but Taleb’s work reminds us that there is a difference between absence of evidence and evidence of absence.
Prepare for the worst. Reacting early to something that turns out to be nothing is far less costly than reacting late to something that ends up being significant. According to Taleb, epidemics have some of the fattest tails of any type of event; in non-statistical parlance, this means that most epidemics will have a negligible effect on the overall human population, while a select few (say, one every 100 years) will become pandemics, have catastrophic effects, and be several orders of magnitude more powerful than any preceding epidemic.
Respond early. The idea of tradeoffs between harms caused to the economy due to lockdowns and deaths caused by COVID-19 is fallacious when talking about implementing lockdowns early; the earlier one reacts to the pandemic, the less overall damage the economy will suffer because of future policy decisions. Once countries fail to act early, tradeoffs become much more important, especially when infection and mortality rates become clearer.
Gear up. Early adoption of face masks (even non-medical grade cloth masks)—when implemented by many people—has a multiplicative effect on reducing transmission. This is caused by the nonlinearity associated with viral load transmission; a 50 percent reduction in viral load transmission by wearing a mask can easily lead to a 99 percent reduction in infection, because a certain threshold of viral load is needed to cause an infection, as mentioned by Taleb in a subsequent Bloomberg interview. This is why it was a dangerous policy for some governments and NGOs to originally mislead the public by stating that face masks didn’t protect against COVID-19, even if such pronouncements were made to reduce N95 mask hoarding and hospital shortages, he said.
If more medical professionals had been incapacitated by COVID-19 due to increased PPE shortages, this would have obviously placed additional strain on a system already overwhelmed by the virus. However, much of this hypothetical strain would become moot by an earlier adoption of masking policies. According to Taleb, it would have been much more effective to have everyone wear masks and shut down the economy to a lesser extent, instead focusing on super-spreader events and vulnerable groups.
Rationality is not scalable. In January 2020, Taleb co-wrote and published a paper warning about the pandemic, long before COVID-19 was top-of-mind worldwide. He urged policymakers to respond early by “killing [the virus] in the egg before [it] can hatch.” In other words, it was not rational to wear a mask, socially distance, or stock up on food back in February 2020; doing so would have been considered a paranoid act. But when the consequences of such paranoia are limited and the payoffs are hypothetically unlimited, acting irrationally—especially when considering the multiplicative effects of mask wearing—is the correct decision.
Beware the ludic fallacy. This fallacy involves being fooled by closed models or games and their misuse in modelling real-life situations. In The Black Swan,Taleb gave an example of a Las Vegas casino that spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the most advanced technology to discover cheaters and card counters, as well as track whales who could jeopardize the casino’s bottom line with a few substantial lucky bets.
That very same casino—the MGM Mirage—failed to see various other risks not found in their modeling. First, they lost approximately $100 million in revenue when a tiger unexpectedly maimed Roy Horn from Siegfried and Roy, bringing an end to the duo’s illustrious Las Vegas show. The very same casino was also threatened by a disgruntled contractor’s unsuccessful attempt to dynamite the casino after being insulted by the casino’s settlement offer after he was injured on the job. Lastly, the casino was forced to pay a $5 million fine and nearly lost its gambling license when an incompetent employee decided to hide gambling profit forms requested by the IRS in a box under his desk for no specific reason.
Each of these scenarios represented far greater risk to the casino’s profitability and survivability, but alas, they were left out of the original risk assessment, leading to the casino’s decision to spend its entire budget on anti-cheating technology.
Be wary of some experts. Most people, including experts, are bad at evaluating their own knowledge. When given the opportunity to estimate the odds of some number of things or events taking place within a given range, people of all backgrounds usually overestimate their ability to correctly guess their rate of error for the range they choose themselves. It is important to note that this has nothing to do with their underlying knowledge, but instead reflects their hubris concerning their ability to gauge the accuracy of their knowledge.
Not all experts are created equal, Taleb warned. Experts in static or technical fields (such as plumbing, accounting, or neurosurgery) are not only highly desirable, but also useful. In other dynamic or forward-looking fields (such as economics, financial analysis, or clinical psychology), such expertise is much less desirable because it is dependent on the ability to predict future events, and it is often fraught with fraudulent and pseudointellectual behavior.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t pursue such careers, or that anyone involved in these fields is fraudulent; instead, one should simply acknowledge that a brain surgeon is far more capable of accurately identifying and removing a tumor from a patient than an economist or a financial analyst is able to predict how interest rates or oil prices will fluctuate over the next five years.
The field of epidemiology falls somewhere between a static and dynamic state, which helps explain why Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, has faced such a barrage of criticism throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. His field (medicine) is rooted in empiricism and technical know-how, but epidemics and pandemics offer relatively small amounts of data due to their rarity, while simultaneously embodying extremely high levels of dynamism.
You can’t predict black swans. That’s what makes them black swans. Taleb often gets irritated when a newscaster or interviewer calls him an oracle or says he can predict such events before they occur; instead, he simply insures himself and his clients against the unlikely event that they do occur at a financial rate that is both feasible and reasonable given all other variables at play. Taleb has said that “the policies we need to make decisions on should depend far more on the range of possible outcomes than on the expected final number.”
Out of more than 30 years of trading, Taleb states that he only had four profitable years, but that even one of these years more than covered all his cumulative losses. “Take all the risks you can, but make sure you’re here tomorrow.” This is the opposite of the culture of modern finance and public policy. In other words, instead of being conservative to daily small and medium-sized risks but completely oblivious to large or catastrophic risk, insure yourself against catastrophic risk (via tail-risk hedging) while taking more small and medium-sized risks to increase overall returns or, in the case of public policy, results.
As written in The Black Swan, Taleb’s work reminds us that “the wise one is the one who knows that he cannot see things far away.”
See Original Post
Reposted from The Harvard Business Review
Your company may pride itself on being a good employer. But even with the best of intentions, your company could be hurting employees’ health and well-being because of the way the work is organized. Working conditions and the demands of the work environment are a significant source of stress for many Americans, and research has found that the design of work can have substantial effects on employee well-being and health as well as health care expenses.
The good news for managers is that there are feasible ways to redesign work to support well-being and yield long-term benefits to the organization. For instance, recent research suggests that strategically changing workplace conditions to foster worker well-being not only improves worker health but can also bring about beneficial business outcomes such as improved job performance (including increased productivity) and lower levels of employee burnout.
It doesn’t have to be costly to redesign work to improve employees’ well-being. In fact, it can often be a good investment. For example, one work-redesign initiative at the IT division of a Fortune 500 firm generated a positive ROI for the company because it reduced turnover costs. Moreover, such strategies have the potential to improve overall organizational resilience.
With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we recently reviewed and synthesized research on the specific work conditions that affect employee well-being. We then developed a “work design for health” framework and toolkit that employers can use to revamp their work practices in ways that benefit both employees’ health and the organization. A good starting point is to consider adopting the following seven approaches:
Research indicates that having little discretion over how work gets done is associated not only with poorer mental health but also with higher rates of heart disease. What’s more, the combination of high work demands and low job control significantly increases the risks of diabetes and death from cardiovascular causes. Even relatively small changes in worker autonomy can make a difference in employee well-being. A study in a customer service call center, for example, found that giving its employees more training so they could take on new tasks and resolve more customer complaints on their own improved both the employees’ well-being and their performance on the job.
Several studies have found that giving workers more choice or control over their work schedules improves their mental health. This can involve simply permitting varied starting and stopping times and easier trading of shifts in jobs that must be done on-site. A more extensive work redesign at a Fortune 500 company — where IT employees were given control over when and where they did their work but still collaborated with their teammates to ensure needed coordination — resulted in physical and mental health improvements for employees as well as reduced turnover for the business.
Many retail and service companies today use “just in time” scheduling to try to match labor to fluctuating demand. But erratic, unpredictable schedules make it hard for frontline workers to manage their personal lives and family responsibilities. Research finds a range of negative outcomes occur for workers who have this kind of erratic work schedule — including poorer sleep quality and greater emotional distress.
Conversely, a study at Gap found that greater schedule stability can benefit both companies and employees. Increasing scheduling stability for workers led to a 7% rise in the participating stores’ median sales and a 5% increase in labor productivity. The added stability also improved sleep quality and reduced stress among employees with children.
Giving employees opportunities to participate in workplace improvements can be an effective approach to fostering their well-being. One study of doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners found that those who were invited to participate in a structured process of identifying and addressing problems in their workplace exhibited decreased rates of burnout and increases in job satisfaction. Employees who had had opportunities to problem solve together were also less likely to say they wanted to leave their jobs — a key benefit for organizations trying to retain valuable employees.
Research has found that high work demands — for instance, long hours or pressure to work very hard or fast — can take a substantial toll on employee health and well-being. In fact, numerous studies find that high demands coupled with low control create health risks, including higher rates of symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Staffing up to spread out the demands may seem costly, but employers also pay a real price when exhausted or ill employees burn out, are absent, or quit. The solution may lie in changing staffing in a targeted way; for example, one study found improvements in efficiency and job satisfaction when doctors were provided with a medical scribe trained to take over some of their charting tasks.
Many employees are also caregivers for children or elderly parents, and they benefit from supervisors who are more supportive of the challenges they face in trying to balance their work and personal lives. A study in nursing homes found that employees whose managers were more accommodating of their family needs had fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease and also slept better. Studies in health care and grocery store settings have examined training programs for managers to increase family-supportive behaviors, with promising findings for work-life balance and health. Employers also benefited because workers whose managers had this training reported higher job satisfaction, better job performance, and less interest in leaving their jobs.
Creating a work culture in which employees can develop supportive relationships with their colleagues can be an important strategy for increasing worker well-being. Research has found that such relationships at work are associated with lower psychological distress, an indicator of poor mental health.
Fostering a sense of social belonging doesn’t have to be a complex or expensive proposition. One study of 911 dispatchers, who have highly stressful jobs and high rates of burnout and turnover, had supervisors send one email a week prompting dispatchers to provide support to one another by sharing affirming stories about their work. For instance, one email shared the story of a dispatcher who was able to save the life of someone who called 911 by connecting the caller to appropriate resources. Dispatchers who received the emails encouraging them to share such stories with one another reported a significant decrease in burnout and were 50% less likely to quit.
As these examples illustrate, many management practices that improve worker well-being also benefit employers. That shouldn’t be surprising. In the long run, companies that care about their employees’ health and well-being will be more likely to have employees who care about the company’s health and well-being too. And that’s an outcome all good leaders want.
Reposted from AAM
As the Curator of Public Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, my professional focus has always been the MFA’s public spaces, performing arts venue, and gardens—not the collection galleries. Most of the museum programs I’ve overseen have been centered on exhibitions in one of our five rotating galleries, with our vast permanent collection serving only—for me, at least—as a scenic shortcut as I checked in on musicians, sound-checked a film, or readied a room for a lecture.
But as our collection galleries underwent a long-planned renovation during our pandemic-induced closure, I began to contemplate something new and exciting. In 2021, what would a museum opening its doors for the first time look like? Instead of using our collection as a backdrop to our programs, how could we use our programs to underscore our collection’s value, demonstrating to our neighbors, partners, and guests that art can be essential to their wellbeing and to the civic life of our city?
The result of this questioning is Picture of Health, the MFA’s innovative new wellness initiative that harnesses the power of our collection and gardens as places to enhance wellbeing and find healing and solace. Here’s a look at the trio of programs that comprise Picture of Health and their origins in the pandemic.
Waiting in the car line at doggy day care one morning, I saw a scrubs-clad woman in front of me grasp her dog in a deep hug, and something clicked. I thought, let’s eschew lessons both ingrained (no dogs near the art) and new (limiting people in the galleries), to see if we can bring therapy dogs into the museum for our frontline workers!
After working with our curatorial team on best practices, I began searching for therapy dogs. And there, too, it turned out, the pandemic had taken its toll. Therapy dogs and their caregivers, who once spent their days at hospitals, schools, and nursing homes, were all stuck at home with no opportunities to give comfort. We developed pre-vaccine safety protocols, reached out to area hospitals for insight and advice, and readied our shaded—and more importantly, outdoor—Membership Garden for use. We assembled canine care teams affiliated with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Project PUP. We purchased treats and water bowls, handed out doggie wipes, and created a pup-centric playlist.
When our Sit, Stay, Heal program launched, there were still numerous uncertainties around social gatherings. Despite our strong safety precautions, the anxiety of venturing out was a real challenge for our visitors and members. But six months later, as CDC recommendations shifted and COVID-19 vaccines rolled out, Sit, Stay, Heal has grown legs, and we now have an ever-expanding group of canine care teams and hospital staff who visit monthly. Due to demand, we have also expanded the program to include all museum visitors, as well as a therapy dog visit to our staff offices.
Witnessing the response to Sit, Stay, Heal allowed me to begin envisioning a suite of wellness programs. For inspiration, I turned to research and focus groups we conducted in 2018 in advance of a planned program to meet the needs of our memory care/dementia community. Surely, there were lessons to be learned in those findings, even though we were no longer able to safely accommodate such a vulnerable population. As I revisited our research and focus group findings, I was struck again by the overwhelming evidence that an emotions-based museum visit could facilitate health and wellness:
Thus, our Mood Tours were conceived! These tours look at art in our collections through a personal rather than art-historical lens, offer paths for intimate and meaningful art-viewing, and provide opportunities for both art-viewing and art-making. With the help of Jasmine Parker, an art therapist, and Mason Gehring, a recent graduate from the University of Florida’s highly respected Arts in Medicine graduate program, we developed tours of our galleries and artworks we thought visitors might connect to in one of six areas: Grief & Resilience, Joy & Celebration, Self-Reflection, Empowerment, Relationships, and Calm.
And in the end, the connections were made.
An audience favorite, Gathering at Church Entrance by Richard Hall, allowed us to place ourselves in the hierarchy of the townspeople in the painting.
One of our favorite pieces to watch people interact with became Big Blue by Leon Berkowitz, who had worked in art therapy as a psychologist in the US Army. At first glance, the emotional touchpoint isn’t apparent, but the longer you sit with his meditative work, the more completely you are drawn in.
Within each printed Mood Tour guide, we created an art activity designed to allow deeper engagement with the art and our visitors’ feelings. It was important for us to facilitate the connection to the artworks, but also provide an outlet to process those connections and emotions.
With group activities placed on hold for the foreseeable future, I turned my attention to a practice called “social prescribing,” which had long been on my wish list. Social prescribing is when physicians prescribe a visit to a museum to their patient, a practice based on compelling research into the health benefits of arts and cultural experiences. Studies have shown that art-viewing, art-making, and museum visits offer very real and tangible psychological and physiological benefits, including:
But the practice, while popular in Canada and parts of Europe, has yet to catch on in the US, which had stymied our efforts to experiment with it in the past. But since the pandemic began, the health care field (much like the museum world), had proven itself much nimbler and more adaptable than before, paving the way for us to try again.
Acting on the belief that physicians with a relationship to the museum would be more inclined to participate, we compiled a list of doctors and began our outreach efforts. Our goal: to start small and grow the program only after assessing its impact on the wellbeing of our visitors. We have started with a core group of five physicians who will participate for six months, and are now in the process of working with practitioners at our local Veterans Hospital. Afterward, we will assess the data and see if we should implement further adjustments.
Aiding in our assessment is the MFA’s “Tell Us How You Really Feel” questionnaire, which we adapted from the University College London Museum Wellbeing Measures Toolkit.
Each of these programs, in some way, addresses the findings from our own research, as well as museum programs increasingly occurring around the world. We also looked to last year’s Culture Track COVID-19 survey, which found that the public expected or wanted the following qualities in a post-COVID museum visit:
As we enter the autumn of 2021, our gallery renovations are complete, and visitors are cautiously returning to the museum. While much remains unclear, one thing is absolutely certain: we have, as a museum, created opportunities to meet the health concerns and emotional needs of our community in a uniquely twenty-first century manner.
By Margaret Murray, the Curator of Public Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. She fosters connection with the museum’s exhibitions and collection through the development of adult programming, such as literature and culinary events, lectures, musical performances, film screenings, and special community events at the MFA.
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
Beirut National Museum has reopened—with expert assistance from the Louvre—following the double explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital on 4 August last year. The blast destroyed the museum’s windows and doors and caused serious damage to the security system. At least 200 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured in the aftermath of the explosions while countless buildings were pulled down.
The Directorate General of Antiquities within Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture drew up a plan of action to rebuild the museum, located 3km south of the port, in the days following the explosion. Teams from the Louvre’s Department of Near Eastern Antiquities and Department of Architectural Heritage and Gardens helped map out a recovery plan, beginning “emergency interventions” on 31 August last year.
This involved securing the building and the collections as quickly as possible by repairing the doors, windows and security system; the team of specialists also helped repair damage in the museum’s administrative quarters and archaeological storerooms.
A Louvre spokesman says that the museum partly reopened mid-July for visitors such as tourists and Lebanese expatriates. “However the work is still in progress and should be completed in the next few days; 95% of the work has been done,” he says.
The restoration work has been funded by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (Aliph), which provided $175,000. Aliph has supported 18 projects costing $2.3m, financing emergency measures to stabilise more than 30 historical houses in Beirut and restore monuments, religious buildings, and cultural institutions including the Sursock Museum($500,000).
"In the context of the crisis that Lebanon is going through, carrying out this work in such a short period of time constitutes a remarkable success," says Sarkis el-Khoury, the Lebanese director general of antiquities in a statement, adding that the joint project is "an important step in the collective work that we are carrying out jointly with the Louvre museum and the Aliph foundation”. New virtual tours of the collection have also been rolled out online.
But further funding is needed to carry out essential maintenance during phase two of the overhaul. “Major repairs valued at nearly $800,000 will be necessary to ensure the long-term balance of the entire museum, whose air conditioning is only operating at 30% of its capacity,” a Louvre statement says. Certain areas, such as the gallery displaying 13th-century mummies, are ventilated by backup systems.
The National Museum of Beirut, which displays over 1,800 objects on three floors dating from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period and originally opened in 1942, has undergone significant upheaval over the years. During the civil war that began in 1975, it was damaged by bombs and occupied by fighters from various armed groups.
The Louvre is also lending expertise to other key heritage projects in Lebanon. In the past three years, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Louvre’s Department of Near Eastern Antiquities have jointly carried out extensive archaeological research at the coastal town of Byblos where 20th-century excavations yielded works now housed at the Beirut National Museum.
Deaths worldwide from the COVID-19 pandemic have surpassed 5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of 1 November, there have been more than 246 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide in the two-year history of the disease, and nearly 7 billion vaccine doses have been administered. The United States has had the most deaths from COVID-19—745,837.
The tally is almost certainly an underestimation, experts said, since many cases—especially early in the pandemic—were not tested and confirmed. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the death toll “a devastating milestone” and a clear warning to the world not to let down its guard.
Despite rising vaccination numbers, some health officials are seeing signs of another coronavirus surge, particularly as some nations are loosening international travel restrictions, NPR reported.
In October, Europe experienced an 18 percent surge in new COVID-19 cases, and Southeast Asia reported a 13 percent increase in new COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Nearly 34,000 people were locked into Shanghai’s Disneyland on Sunday to be tested for COVID-19 after a single confirmed case was linked to the park. Visitors all tested negative, but will be required to test again over the next two weeks. The park also announced it would be closed for two days after the incident, according to the BBC.
In the face of rapidly climbing infection rates, Russian officials launched a 10-day lockdown that suspended work and travel. Officials ordered all unvaccinated residents more than 60 years in age—as well as unvaccinated people who may have chronic diseases or preexisting conditions—to remain at home for four months, CNN reported.
Reposted from The Hour
Officials at museums across Alaska have condemned repeated acts of antisemitic vandalism this year targeting the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage.
During instances in May and September, someone has placed swastika stickers on the building or carved the symbol associated with the Nazis into the museum door, the Juneau Empire reported.
The September acts of vandalism came as the Anchorage Assembly held public hearings about instituting a mask mandate for 60 days amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Many opponents of the mandate packed the assembly chamber to protest, including some wearing yellow Star of David stickers, similar to the patches Holocaust victims wore, to compare the mandate to what Jews faced under the Nazi regime in Germany.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who opposes all COVID-19 mandates, initially defended the use of the stars. At the time he said: “There was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was, ‘never again.’ That’s an ethos. And that’s what that star really means is, ‘We will not forget, this will never happen again.’ And I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them.”
The next day, he apologized. “I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate, and I want to apologize for any perception that my statements support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany,” Bronson said in a statement.
“History reveals that malicious acts increase during uncertain times, and they flourish when encouraged or ignored by people in leadership positions,” Clough said her statement. “We will not ignore this spiteful act and we will work with the Alaska Jewish Museum to combat bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.”
Reposted from AAM
“Can you describe a time you felt unwelcome or like you didn’t belong in a museum?”
This question was posed during a recent conference call for the Facing Change Senior Diversity Fellows. As I listened to my distinguished colleagues recount their lived experiences of exclusion and unwelcome, many of them tied to racism, I tried to hold myself accountable to all the privilege I walk with in the world. Then it was my turn. Though I did not have the same experience with racism and did not wish to make a false equivalency, I wanted to share a story of my own and honor how it has shaped my journey personally and professionally. The story was of my first visit to a children’s museum with my daughter, who at the time was a year old. I had just moved to a new city and had been told by other parents about the wonderful local children’s museum. I had never been to one, despite having rich and expansive experiences with other kinds of museums and cultural institutions.
While the exhibits at the children’s museum were thoughtful and playful, somehow the experience left me feeling isolated and alone, like I didn’t really belong. There weren’t any signs or liaisons helping me figure out my role in this unfamiliar play environment, or pointing me to reflect on what the exhibits might teach. Looking around at the other groups of parents, I felt different from them; they seemed to have an understanding or secret code that I didn’t have. As a relatively new parent and a first-time visitor to this kind of museum, I felt the familiar twinge of “otherness” from my own childhood in an immigrant family. I felt it especially after my daughter had a hard time taking turns and sharing with another child, leading to an awkward encounter with a parent. Ultimately, our visit ended with us sitting on a bench as I read her a book, an activity I knew well and felt comfortable doing, and then we left.
A year later I returned to work and, as fate would have it, I found myself working in a children’s museum. I learned all about the deep and thoughtful intention that went into exhibits and programs, how they were designed based on theories of child development to promote health, inquiry, connection, and bonding. I felt I had finally been given the secret decoder ring I had been missing to understand all the benefits that a visit to a sensory-rich environment has on the growth and development of a child. In my role as an outreach coordinator, it was my job to share this newfound understanding with underrepresented and under-resourced communities, to help them reap those benefits with the sense of belonging and understanding that I had not felt.
But my joy and enthusiasm for this responsibility was soon tempered by the realization that it was rooted in a posture of “doing to” these communities, instead of the empowerment of “co-creating with” them. I had my eyes opened to the deep racial inequities that existed in my city, leading me to reflect on my complicity in upholding structural racism. I had to look hard at what I was doing and how I was doing it—was I acting as a “white savior” upholding a hierarchy even while I felt like an outsider myself? How could I follow the path of empathy for this feeling of exclusion to the understanding and accountability that would make a more equitable and inclusive institution?
My personal and organizational journey was not a solo adventure. It was supported by the museum’s leadership and done in collaboration with colleagues, childcare providers, and families, as well as many wonderful mentors in racial and social justice. At times this work was hard, messy, off-base, and complicated. But what ultimately emerged was a community-created understanding of the barriers to participation that marginalized and minoritized people face in many public spaces. I’ve since adapted this understanding into a framework of guiding questions to help develop strategies for becoming more inclusive and welcoming.
Every community and its needs are different, so your organization’s approach to inclusion and belonging should ideally be co-created with the community and local ecosystem in which it exists. I offer the following barriers and guiding questions in the spirit of reflection and as a starting point to creating collaborations, programs, policies, and practices that deepen the sense of belonging in your institution by your full community.
This may be the strongest and most persistent barrier. It is one that our field has been putting effort and energy into and continues to grapple with. It is not enough to say we will diversify our staff; we must be willing to transform the culture of our institutions into inclusive places to work, visit, and champion. In the end, all of us resource with our time and energy the things we value. How valued are we as museums if only a part of our community is engaging with us?
Guiding questions and reflections:
I have had over twenty years to reflect on my own discomfort in the children’s museum. My difficulties with parenting in public, “getting” the learning experience, and doing things the “right way,” are all sentiments I felt and heard from others as reasons they choose not to visit museums.
Throughout our field there have been great strides in making visits to our institutions affordable, and most initiatives are income-based or tied to public assistance. But many families who would qualify for these programs still choose not to use them, for fear of having to disclose this information in front of their children or being treated differently for it. Having to prove low-income status with documentation undermines the impact of these programs.
Madison Children’s Museum removed the documentation requirement for its low-cost access memberships, which resulted in increased sign-ups and visits without any reduction in the other membership levels. There was also an increase in donations and grant funds to support the program. These goals were realized through deep community engagement and listening, as well as the courage to ask if standard practice creates additional barriers.
Having to navigate interactions as a limited English speaker narrows the amount of places individuals and families will go. Often they will choose places that have significant staffing, visitation, and engagement in their native languages instead.
The wide array of different physical and cognitive abilities offers an opportunity to work with agencies to assess the needs of the community and adapt exhibits and experiences within our museum to meet them. ADA compliance is not full inclusion or accessibility.
Our most valuable and finite resource is time. The pressures on modern families who are working multiple jobs, juggling competing activities and schedules, running single-parent households, or living in crisis and poverty severely limit the time to devote to visiting and engaging in museum experiences.
The price of a visit can be prohibitive, even when museums offer low-cost admissions, because of the added costs for food, parking, and transportation.
One of the most significant questions we must keep asking ourselves is “for whom do we exist?” By reflecting on the layered impact of these barriers, questioning policies, engaging in community listening, and centering the voices of our communities (especially those who are marginalized and minoritized) we can begin to dismantle them with asset-based collaborative solutions. By doing so, we can make our institutions relevant, thriving places of connection, learning, and dialogue. Our very survival depends on it.
“…your world and my world, Belonging to all the hands who build.” -Langston Hughes
Reposted from The Times of Israel
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $25 million in grants to boost security at nonprofits threatened by hate crimes.
Speaking at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan Wednesday, where a Confederate flag was tied to its doors earlier this year, Hochul also announced the rollout of a new online hate-crime reporting system meant to help the state deploy resources immediately and effectively.
“You continue to wear that yarmulke every single day and I will protect you,” said Hochul. “This stops now. We’re letting people know that if they dare raise a hand to any New Yorker, they are picking a fight with 20 million others, starting with their governor.”
The grants are part of the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program, which solicited grant proposals in spring 2020 from schools, daycare centers, museums and camps to boost infrastructure and security against hate crimes and hate-related incidents in New York. Hochul said the new funding will support another 800 projects across the state.
This year, the NYPD has already reported 371 hate-related incidents in New York City, across the Jewish, Asian, Black and LGBTQ communities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2020 Hate Crime Statistics report showed that overall hate crimes were rising, and that antisemitic hate crimes made up 57% of all religious bias crimes.
Crimes involving cultural property flourished during 2020, despite restrictions on travel and access to public institutions during lockdowns, a new Interpol survey has found.
Police in 72 Interpol member countries seized a total of 854,742 objects, more than half of them in Europe, according to the survey. It also reported marked increases in illicit excavations in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the South Pacific. Crimes in museums, however, declined in all regions except the Americas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on criminals involved in the illicit traffic of cultural property, but did not in any way diminish the demand for these items or the occurrence of such crimes,” says Corrado Catesi, the coordinator of Interpol’s Works of Art unit. “As countries implemented travel restrictions and other restrictive measures, criminals were forced to find other ways to steal, illegally excavate and smuggle cultural property.”
The number of offenses reported in the Americas in 2020 was almost double the 2019 figure. In Europe, the figure climbed to 6,251 from 5,088 offenses. In Asia and Africa, the overall number of reported offenses declined from 2019.
Among the high-profile art crimes reported in 2020 were the theft of a Van Gogh painting from the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands and three masterpieces stolen from Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford in the UK. Operation Pandora, a coordinated European law-enforcement effort targeting the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, resulted in more than 56,400 objects being seized.
Last year, an ICU nurse at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center might have needed a morale boost during a particularly stressful week, and found collegial support through the work of Brianna Correa, a guest services cashier from the San Bernardino County Museum. Last fall, some of Brianna’s colleagues from the museum’s curatorial, educational, security and maintenance staff served as poll workers, drivers, and filled other critical needs during the election. This deployment of museum staff into critical emergency roles was a result of California’s history and legislative code, but it is a model that more states might want to consider.
Californians have always lived with the reality of natural disasters. The state has well over a century of approaching man-made and natural disasters with extensive and intelligent planning and preparation. At the heart of the state’s emergency program is leadership, constituent empowerment, coordination, and partnerships. One of the most valuable elements that ensures flexibility and resiliency is the mandate of utilizing public employees in emergency response. While other states and government agencies (like FEMA) have trained reserves, I’m not familiar with anything quite like our program.
California Government Code 3100-3109 states: “It is hereby declared that the protection of the health and safety and preservation of the lives and property of the people of the state from the effects of natural, manmade, or war-caused emergencies which result in conditions of disaster or in extreme peril to life, property, and resources is of paramount state importance requiring the responsible efforts of public and private agencies and individual citizens. In furtherance of the exercise of the police power of the state in protection of its citizens and resources, all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.”
As a department of San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino County Museum staff – along with all public employees who work for California’s other 57 counties, 482 cities and towns, 2894 special districts, 1,037 school districts, and 518 state agencies – can be called upon as disaster service workers (DSW) in the event of an emergency.
California’s coordinated and legislated emergency response efforts date back to the early 1900s with the California Emergency Council, while the laws leading to the establishment of the DSWs were developed in the 1940s when the nation’s concern about invasion from the Pacific led to the creation of the California War Council. At the time, it was recognized that the capacity to address attacks or natural disasters could only be successfully achieved if personnel assistance could be deployed immediately. In a large scale emergency, as was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not enough to have immediate access to specifically trained emergency personnel, like EMTs, police, fire, doctors, and nurses. There are numerous support positions needed – information phone banking, community check-in stations, post-earthquake cleanup, etc – that must be mobilized quickly, and can be filled with recruits that have entirely different job descriptions, but have the requisite applicable skills. With basic instruction and coordination these recruits can provide effective and much needed support. In 1970, the California Emergency Services Act created the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, establishing our current legal framework for these emergency deployments.
In San Bernardino County, disaster response implementation involves coordination among the County’s Board of Supervisors, the County Administrative Office, the Office of Emergency Services and the department of Human Resources, through an emergency declaration process. So, when people are hired, and before they begin the duties of their employment, they take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation set forth in the California Constitution which establishes their duty as a public employee, including as disaster service workers in times of need. Whether they are in the office of the county tax collector or district attorney, the library, animal control, or museum, they know that at any time during their employment they may be called for deployment. From union memoranda to employee badges, there are reminders of this critical role. Whereas San Bernardino, just one county in the state, has 22,000 employees, it’s easy to see that the potential pool of DSWs in California is immense, with the added benefit of an efficient geographic spread.
During the pandemic, once the Board of Supervisors had ratified the public emergency declaration, much of our museum staff were reassigned to temporary roles in the county during the museum’s public closure. Assignments included the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, at County “MPODs” (Medical Point of Dispensing) sites, and as contract tracers. During the November 2020 election the office of the Registrar of Voters, impacted by the COVID shortage of applicants for temporary work, requested county staff to support their efforts, by acting as poll workers and drivers.
Brianna Correa, a five-year museum veteran, first joined the museum as an anthropology intern while still in high school. Now a college senior, Brianna juggles her Cal State Pomona studies with her museum employment as a guest services cashier. During our pandemic closure, while many positions like finance, curators, educators, could continue in their existing roles with tasks like virtual programming, the public-facing cashier function was deemed “non-essential.” Never having worked in government before my current position, I stressed over what would happen to these workers, and others – was their county employment at risk?
I needn’t have worried. Behind the scenes at the county government center, the response wheels were rapidly turning to address the pandemic emergency. During March and April of 2020, when museums across the state were announcing furloughs and layoffs, our museum department was providing a list of names and skill-sets to HR so the county response team could match these skill-sets across the significant scope of COVID response needs.
Brianna was one of two museum staff assigned to the regional hospital for an entire year, and returned to us when the county museum finally reopened to the public in March 2021. During her deployment at the hospital, she assisted with internal customer service and social media communications, including the promotion of amusing theme days for hospital staff. Her museum training in these seemingly non-emergency response tasks proved valuable for the times, when the morale and mental health of our front line workers was a priority.
In the fall of 2020, the severe shortage of job applicants nationwide was being felt by all of our community, and impacted hiring in our county departments. For the Registrar of Voters, this was a particularly critical time with a complex election coming up. The worker shortage was a result of the pandemic emergency, so the county was able to apply the DSW process to meet the sizable need for poll workers, drivers and other related election needs by using county employees. Because these deployments had a narrow window, the museum was able to deploy curatorial, educational, security and maintenance staff, with minimal impact to their duties at the museum during our closure.
The adage “many hands make light work” truly characterized our region’s COVID response. It’s hard to imagine any other emergency response as prolonged as this pandemic. I have gained a deep appreciation for this efficient, coordinated state process that truly operates at the local level. Museum workers are not front line workers. But for our staff, serving as disaster service workers both highlighted and enhanced our essential role as public servants.
ConferenceMembershipTraining & CertificationDonate to IFCPP
TRAINING & EVENTS
1305 Krameria, Unit H-129, Denver, CO 80220 Local: 303.322.9667
Copyright © 2015 - 2018 International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection. All Rights Reserved