Oxford University Museum of Natural History is one of the largest and most visited university science museums globally, with more than 60 staff, 200 active volunteers and over 800,000 visitors per year. In line with the University Strategic Plan, the Museum is committed to cultivating an inclusive culture that promotes equity, challenges discrimination and systemic barriers to success, and values diversity of all its staff and visitors. This is central to our vision, which entails using the Museum’s collections to advance, communicate and share the sciences of the natural environment with diverse global audiences.
Science and the UK museum sector have not historically been welcoming to all, and we recognise that it is our responsibility to change this culture. We celebrate the important contributions made by women in science, promoting gender equality in our programming and exhibits. We deliver accessible learning sessions to a diversity of schools, particularly those in socio-economically disadvantaged areas. We run dedicated events for people with a range of needs and abilities, including those with sight loss, autism and learning disabilities. We encourage job applications from people of all backgrounds, train staff involved in recruitment to identify and combat bias, and have anti-harassment and bullying policies in place to protect our staff and visitors.
However, we recognise that more needs to be done to strengthen and celebrate the diversity of our workforce and audiences. A 2018/19 report by Arts Council England highlighted that the UK museum sector is not representative of the country as a whole, with particularly low representation of Black and minority ethnic and disabled people across the organisations it funds. There is also a growing appreciation of the inherent and troubling links between natural history collections and colonialism, which are often not acknowledged in museum interpretation.
We are making a number of changes as part of ongoing efforts to make the Museum more diverse and inclusive:
- Our Strategy for 2020–2023 has equity, diversity and inclusion embedded as core principles underpinning our work.
- We have established an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Group to champion equity and diversity across all activities and at all levels of the organisation.
- We have increased the diversity of the Board of Visitors, which acts as a senior advisory group for the Museum.
- We have applied for an Athena Swan award, reflecting the importance of gender equality within the Museum.
- We are piloting a new research bursary scheme aimed at Black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled and socio-economically disadvantaged students.
- Our National Lottery funded HOPE for the Future project is offering free Discovery Days to schools with 20% or more children qualifying for pupil premium.
The efficacy of these actions will be monitored by the EDI Group and Athena Swan Working Group over the coming years.
Last updated 21 June 2021.