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Five TedTalks to think about

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Online videos are a way to expand your horizons. In the current conversational climate, they can be a way to hear voices that may not be included in your circle. At the same time, clicking on a link, you never know what you are going to get. An old favorite of mine, TED Talks, has proved to be a safe, informative source on several topics of current societal importance. Here are five TED Talks museum professionals should explore.

Museums should honor the everyday, not just the extraordinary

Speaker – Ariana Curtis

Time – 12 minutes

Quote – “By definition being extraordinary is non-representative. It is atypical. Those stories do not create a broad base for incorporating women’s history and they don’t reflect our daily realities.”

Why you should watch: Curator Ariana Curtis delves into how museums only include women when they are “first” or “famous”. By solely including exceptional women museums fail to paint an accurate picture of womanhood. The inclusion of some women does not automatically mean the inclusion of all women. Attention is paid to the importance of intersectionality.

Scenes from a Black Trans life

SpeakerD-L Stewart

Time – 15 minutes

Quote – “I contain multitudes.”

Why you should watch: D-L Stewart’s powerful talk has been viewed over half a million times for a reason. His powerful poetry shows the importance of acknowledging many aspects of a person when representing them. It can be difficult to portray complex people in short museum labels. Yet, in simplifying museums risk dehumanizing people and dishonoring the layers which make them up.

Can beauty open our hearts to difficult conversations?

SpeakerTitus Kaphar

Time – 14 minutes

Quote – “There is the ascetic beauty of a work that in some cases functions as more of a trojan horse. It allows one to open their hearts to difficult conversations.”

Why you should watch: Museums traditionally show objects considered beautiful. Titus Kaphar argues the beauty of art or objects can spark dialogue. Beauty for him is not just about being ascetics but also representing truth. Watch and consider what “truth” the art/objects in your gallery tell.

The danger of a single story

Speaker – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Time – 18 minutes

Quote“That is how you create a single story, show a people as only one thing over and over again. Then that is what they become.”

Why you should watch: With over 22 million views, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s talk has become a classic. In it, she shares the dangers of telling a “single story.” When you tell the story of a people as one thing, then repeat that story over and over again, that story what is they become in people’s minds. Adichi speaks mainly of literature and media. However, her comments easily apply to the museum field. While watching consider whether your gallery tells a single story.

The difference between being "not racist" and antiracist

Speaker – Ibram X. Kendi

Time – 60 minutes

Quote – In the most simplest way, a not racist is a racist who is in denial, and an anti-racist is someone who is willing to admit the times in which they are being racist, and who is willing to recognize the inequities and the racial problems of our society, and who is willing to challenge those racial inequities by challenging policy.”

Why you should watch: Ibram Kendi’s work has risen to the forefront in recent months. During this question and answer session, Kendi covers the main ideas from his New York Times bestseller “How to Be An Antiracist.” He lays problems with the phrase “I am not a racist” as well as what it means to be “antiracist.” For people in positions of power at museums now is the time to ask themselves whether they are “not racist” or “antiracist.” Whether their institution is “not racist” or “antiracist?”

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