Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) Support Plan

The Spurlock Museum opposes racial and cultural discrimination in all forms.

As a museum and university entity we have been complicit in the erasures of history, and we continue to benefit from systems of oppression and displacement. We acknowledge that some items in the Spurlock Museum's collections are probably looted cultural property.

We have not always been true community partners. We have not always supported Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) within our community. We have also not always supported oppressed communities around the world whose art and objects we exhibit. We deeply regret our actions and our inaction that contribute to perpetuating oppression.

We join our University in renewing our commitment to fight injustice. We will listen. We will educate ourselves. We will join in and support our community in prioritizing diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.

Our plan below outlines how we intend to support BIPOC staff, students, faculty, and community members during the 2021-2022 academic year. This plan will be evaluated on an annual basis for effectiveness and content.

Action Steps

We acknowledge that we, as a Museum, have much work to do. Our plan includes both large initiatives (to bring about quick changes) and small steps (to ensure lasting, sustainable change).

  • 1. Visitor Services

    During this academic year we will reorganize our security section, transitioning from a policing to visitor services model. A visitor services model focuses on providing a positive guest experience at the Museum and prioritizes people over objects. After this transition, staff will no longer wear security guard uniforms that resemble police attire. It has been noted that this uniform creates a hostile environment and also misrepresents the intent and authority of these staff members. All staff will create and maintain a welcoming environment for all visitors and staff will receive training on how to maintain safety of people first (then objects) and whom to call upon when emergencies occur.

  • 2. Funding for Museum Leadership Opportunities for BIPOC Staff and Student Staff Members:

    Each year the Director will budget funds for BIPOC staff and student staff members to pursue leadership training and opportunities in the Museum/Arts/Cultural Heritage sector. For the current fiscal year, the amount of $5000 has been budgeted.

  • 3. Staff Education

    The Spurlock Museum staff recently changed the structure of our bi-monthly staff meetings. Moving forward, the second staff meeting of each month is dedicated to training or important discussions. These staff meetings will include trainings and discussions regarding diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. Additionally, we will include training on related topics at the annual staff workshop in May/June 2022, and at all future annual workshops. When appropriate, outside consultants and community members will be hired to assist with trainings.

  • 4. Museum Advisory Groups

    Currently, the Spurlock Museum’s advisory board does not reflect the diversity of our community. This year, the Director and advisory board nominating committee will focus on filling existing vacancies with community members who have expertise in identified areas of need and will also contribute to increasing the diversity of voices and perspectives that are represented on the board.

    During the course of this year, the Spurlock Museum staff will investigate the feasibility of adding Student and Native American stakeholder advisory groups. These perspectives are very important to the Museum, and we would like to develop an organized and meaningful way to solicit feedback and listen to concerns about the Museum and its collections from these stakeholder groups.

  • 5. Community Curator Programs

    The Museum is excited to develop Community Curator programs to increase the voices and perspectives represented in the Museum. Community Curators may develop exhibits and programs or undertake creative or research projects. During the next two years, the Spurlock Museum will develop an application process that will allow community members to propose projects and serve as curators. A transparent application process will promote equity and meet our mission to amplify community voices. Over the next two to three years, the Museum will seek funds to make sure the Community Curator programs are sustainable and fairly compensate community curators for their work.

  • 6. Vendor Selection

    As a unit of the University of Illinois, the Spurlock Museum is subject to many rules and regulations in purchasing and contracts. The Business Enterprise for Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities Act (BEP) program is part of the supplier diversity program at the University, and maintains a listing of qualified certified businesses owned by minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and veterans for contracting needs. The list is available at the web address below:

  • Spurlock staff will all become familiar with this list, and also keep an internal spreadsheet of vendors from this list that the Museum has used, and can recommend. Whenever possible, the Museum will support these vendors for their contracting and purchasing needs.

  • 7. Exhibitions

    When creating new exhibitions or updating existing exhibits that focus on a particular cultural group or objects from a particular cultural group, the Spurlock Museum must collaborate with at least one member of the source community, descendant, or member of the cultural group most closely related to the object(s) being exhibited.

  • 8. Collections Review and Research

    The Spurlock Museum houses over 52,000 objects. Collections were acquired by the University as early as the late 1800s. Although the Museum currently follows all laws, regulations, and museum best practices in acquiring collections, some of the Museum’s collections do have questionable provenance. The Museum desires to be more proactive in identifying these objects and resolving any issues though consultation, repatriation, restitution, or other appropriate action.

    During this academic year, we will seek grant funding to hire additional staff to work with our Native American collections. Staff will work with the campus native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) office to prioritize collections for research and consultation. We will systematically work through all of the Museum’s collections, conducting research and consulting with stakeholders. It is understood that this will be an ongoing process, necessitating research over the course of a decade or more. However, the Museum is committed to this project and will continue to devote funding to this important work.


Community members are encouraged to share their thoughts any time using a simple anonymous webform.

Leave Feedback (external link)

Additionally, you can contact Museum Director, Elizabeth Sutton, or any Museum staff member. Dr. Sutton can be reached via email () or by phone (217-300-6365 (phone link)). A listing of the staff and their contact information can be found on our contact page.