Action Taken Against Staff at Montpelier
The Board of Directors for the Association of Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) wishes to express our opposition to the recent events at James Madison’s Montpelier. The work done by the staff at Montpelier has set the standard in the field of museums and community engagement, inspiring countless museum professionals and organizations around the country to tell a more complete and inclusive story of our past. The Engaging Descendant Communities In the Interpretation of Slavery at Museums and Historic Site: A Rubric Established by the National Summit on Teaching Slavery document lays the foundation for how this work may be done. As an organization, ALHFAM has committed to moving forward in a similar fashion in its most recent strategic plan. Its goal is to give living history professionals the tools to interpret these difficult histories and include groups that have historically been excluded or underrepresented in the narrative at historic sites and museums.
Just last year the Montpelier Foundation made a tangible commitment to this ideal by stating they would give equal voice and vote on the board to the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC), many of whose ancestors lived, died, and are buried on the property. Yet, in the last few weeks, the board voted to strip this group of power, stating that the board would decide who best represents the descendants. On April 18, 2022, the President and CEO of the Montpelier Foundation dismissed several key staff members who were instrumental in developing this work. These individuals spoke out publicly against the Board's action, and it is believed their firing is in retaliation for their speaking out. We, the ALHFAM Board of Directors, are joining the broader museum community in support of the staff who were fired and of the MDC who are losing their voice and their story at this time. We urge the Montpelier Foundation to rethink these actions and once again step up to be a leader in the museum field.
To understand history, one should not only focus on the successes of our ancestors but also shine a light on those actions that were unjust. Discussing difficult subjects is critical to understanding our society and how it functions today; however, this cannot be done if we only have one perspective dominating the discourse.
The Board of Directors
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums
You can read more about the controversy here https://savingplaces.org/press-center/media-resources/statement-on-montpelier-foundation-staff-actions#.YmHF7trMK70