Madison McDaniel, Feedback Labs | April 20th, 2022
Storytelling wields the tremendous power of uplifting marginalized communities. Sharing stories of the lived experiences of people who have been historically left out of the narrative can amplify the history of those communities. The Jacksonville Historical Society helps the people of Jacksonville preserve and share the city’s many fascinating stories. This begs the question: how can the Society ensure that everyone feels represented in the way that the past is interpreted?
In 1929, a small group of Jacksonville citizens gathered to discuss a local historical society that would organize and share the history of the city, and The Jacksonville Historical Society was born. With the mission of strengthening citizenship by engaging and educating Jacksonville’s people about their history, the organization has led many projects protecting historical buildings and promoting awareness of the city’s past. The Jacksonville Historical Society is asking itself how it can ensure greater diversity and community involvement within its programs.
LabStorm participants at Feedback+Jacksonville had the opportunity to take a tour of the historic Merrill House Museum, which offers an educational interpretation of turn-of-the-century Jacksonville. After gaining some context through this tour, LabStorm participants discussed how the Jacksonville Historical Society could more fully represent the authentic history of the city in an inclusive way.
Key Takeaways from that discussion:
- Tell more inclusive stories to help more Jacksonville residents see themselves in the stories represented. The Jacksonville Historical Society should put itself in the shoes of communities that have been historically left out of its narrative and ask itself what history is missing. How would these communities like to see their stories told? Context is key when accurately representing the experiences of others. Rather than simply telling the stories like those of the wealthy families who lived in the Merrill house, the Society may benefit from engaging in conversations about families throughout the city. Participants recommended that the Society doesn’t always have to tell the same story. When visitors come back and see different stories being told, it will promote an ongoing dialogue and a sense of continued inclusivity.
- Work with the community to diversify membership. Seeking out partnerships with local organizations will foster diversity within the Jacksonville Historical Society’s community. Understanding what the Society can offer can be used as a point for a community engagement plan. Collaborating with Black communities and organizations can take time to build trust, but by demonstrating a dedication to equity and inclusion in presenting Jacksonville’s history, a foundation of mutual trust can be established. Participants recommended that the Society create more accessible spaces for diverse communities to get involved. Making spaces for small local bands or focus groups can create opportunities for more community engagement where people can learn more about the Society’s mission.
- Build in authentic history and inclusivity from the start with the Jacksonville Historical Society’s new local music history museum. Music is a universal language that connects people in powerful ways. It’s a great medium that can be used to tell the stories and amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Utilizing this museum space is the perfect opportunity to represent different styles of music throughout Jacksonville’s history that may appeal to diverse aspects of the community.
This LabStorm highlighted the importance of adding context to history in order to promote inclusion and represent community experiences accurately. The Jacksonville Historical Society emphasized that there are plenty of stories that still need to be told. Creating a safe and honest space where people can learn about the experiences of others is the best way to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the city of Jacksonville.
Learn More About LabStorms
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges or share what’s working well in their practice.
Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools.
To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms.