Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility at the MAH

The MAH is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in our exhibits, programs, and events, in our workplace, and in our community. With the commitment to this work, we recognize systemic racism in our field/institution and how these policies, practices, and procedures have excluded specific populations from access and opportunities.

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) is a community-based museum that welcomes people from all backgrounds and identities, with diverse life experiences, to create an environment that is intentional, inclusive, supportive, and accessible. The MAH is of, by, and for the people of Santa Cruz County. We seek to enrich our community by igniting shared experiences and unexpected connections around art and local history.

The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.

Elements of DEIA work have been a cornerstone of our programs for years showing up in large-scale exhibitions to community rentals. However, in 2020, the MAH took steps to formally develop and deepen our commitment to this work in the creation of a joint board-staff committee. As the MAH continues its work to align intentions with actions, we will prioritize and invest in DEIA initiatives through the lens of three areas: programs, operations, and culture.

This page serves as our public commitment and will house ongoing updates and resources as we continue to learn together. We understand that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are not goals we attain, but rather principles that must actively guide us in our decision-making processes.

As we move forward, we will continuously listen to our community, find areas of improvement, and re-evaluate how our commitment to these practices can be better met. Please look at this page as a living document and check back for updates as we will have more to share as time goes on.

We believe that this work will create safer spaces at the MAH and in the spaces we hold out in the community, forming an invitation for everyone to feel safe, welcomed, supported, and trusted. The MAH is a space for people to be their full selves and to hold space for others to do the same.

We invite you to join us in these efforts
As our institution grows, we need honest feedback from our community. We are learning. We will make mistakes. Please contact us with your questions, ideas, and input.
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DEIA in Action

Storytelling is central to the work of the MAH. Collecting, preserving, and sharing stories, as well as, creating spaces for our guests to connect, create, and share new stories. In this spirit, we are highlighting a few stories that provide examples of where you will see diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in action at the MAH.

We hope you can join us, as we collect and share more information about our plans and the resulting stories in the years ahead.

Watsonville Pride 2015

Queer Santa Cruz Exhibition

In March of 2020, the Museum was required to close its doors in accordance with statewide restrictions following the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of uncertainty, the MAH adapted the next exhibition that was set to open in-person into their first-ever online/in-person exhibitition. Debuting online in April 2020 and in person October 2021, Queer Santa Cruz shares the impact and history of the LGBTQ+ community in Santa Cruz County. Turning setbacks into increased accessibility, the exhibition shines a light on local trailblazers for guests near and far.

Land Acknowledgement Image

Public Land Acknowledgement

The history of Santa Cruz County predates the existence of the county and the use of the name. Where possible, the MAH seeks to preserve and celebrate the whole history of this area, to celebrate the diversity of people who called this home. In 2020, the MAH added a land acknowledgment plaque by the Front Street entry to the museum.

Socius 2

Professional Development Opportunity

MAH staff and board members had the opportunity under the NCAF Grant to participate in a SOCIUS Group Workshop led by Diedra Barber of Filament Consulting Group titled: Building Individual Capacity to Co-Imagine, Co-Create, and Co-Foster an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Organizational Culture, Structure, and Model.

This workshop was a series of capacity-building sessions designed to support those who wanted to expand their ability to hold, grow and foster anti-racism, equity, and inclusion plans and growth.

Our Shared Definitions

The DEIA efforts at the MAH are mirrored by the expanding efforts that continue to develop in museums and organizations and companies around the country. To help align our work in these areas, the MAH staff and Board have collaborated on these definitions.


Differences and similarities, actual and perceived, based on social constructs such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. The MAH recognizes that all are enriched when a diverse range of voices, viewpoints, and skills are engaged in our work.


Equity means increasing diversity by dismantling conditions of historically disadvantaged groups and removing barriers that prevent participation from these communities. The MAH recognizes that some groups are underserved in accessing opportunities and are underrepresented in many organizations and institutions. The MAH is working to ensure all have equitable access to participation, resources, and opportunities.


The intentional, ongoing effort to create and maintain an environment of belonging in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, seen in their wholeness, and can contribute fully to the MAH’s success. It refers to the ways diverse participants are valued as respected members of the MAH and our greater community.


Providing reasonable accommodations and equitable access to the MAH and its resources to people who move along a continuum of ability, experience, and education. The MAH makes space for and supports the wholeness of every person within the MAH community, including virtual, onsite, and off-site programs.

Related Reads on the MAH Blog

DEIA Archive

Every two years the MAH works closely with local partners to create new artwork and installations that spark dialogue and action on local issues. These Community Issue Exhibitions are driven by our Creative Community Committee (aka C3). This group of diverse representatives from Santa Cruz County works together to tackle issues in our community and create action-oriented exhibitions at the MAH.

The Cohorts

2018-19 | We're Still Here: Stories of Seniors and Social Isolation

This exhibition was created by 100 local seniors, organizations, and advocates to address the growing health epidemic in our community, senior isolation.

2016-17 | Lost Childhoods: Voices of Santa Cruz County Foster Youth and the Foster Youth Museum

This exhibition featured and was created by foster youth and foster youth advocates. The exhibition highlighted stories from local foster youth and invited our community to get involved.

In 2013, in collaboration with the Santa Cruz County Diversity Center, the MAH helped catalog, store, and make available artifacts, mementos, photos, and more for a robust Santa Cruz County LGBTQ+ History Archive. Members of the community were invited to donate objects and conduct research as part of the Diversity Center’s Trailblazer History Project.

This project accumulated into the exhibition, Queer Santa Cruz, which opened online in 2020.

In line with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History’s Vision, Mission, and Values, the Archives seeks to describe archival materials in a manner that respects those who create, are represented in, and interact with the collections we care for. Archival description appears in collection guides and digital object metadata. We acknowledge a user may encounter language that is racist, colonialist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise harmful or offensive. This language may result from archival description that has been created over the years by creators of collection material, previous caretakers, or by MAH staff since acquisition.

When we encounter harmful language, we are committed to reviewing and updating it to acknowledge and repair harm, and documenting such updates. However, original description that comes from the archival material itself can provide important context about its creators, custodial history, and/or source, even when the language can cause harm. In such cases, we are committed to providing additional context where possible.

We are currently implementing practices to address harmful language as part of both retrospective and ongoing description work. Communities with less access to and privilege within museums and archives have had less control over how they are represented and described. Therefore, the MAH is dedicated to working with members of the community to assess and update descriptions using language that communities choose for themselves. We acknowledge that language evolves over time and that efforts to create respectful and inclusive description must be ongoing and iterative. As such, we welcome your feedback and questions at archives@santacruzmah.org

This statement was adapted from: UCSC Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description Princeton Library Statement on Language in Archival Description Yale University Library Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description DPLA’s Statement on Potentially Harmful Content

Get Involved at the MAH

Share your voice, passions, and skills with Santa Cruz County's creative community. Get in touch and check out upcoming collaborations with the MAH.