Values & DefinitionsCommitmentsLand AcknowledgementSugar HistoryAbout

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Statement

Shelburne Museum is committed to promoting and protecting Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) for our internal and external communities. Understanding that museums play active roles as cultural leaders, allies, and agents of change, this statement is a living document that outlines the Museum’s values and commitments to advancing DEAI initiatives throughout all aspects of visitor and staff engagement. The Museum recognizes that the advancement of DEAI requires constant work, evaluation, and often includes implementation of new policies, procedures, and practices. In full transparency to the Museum’s staff and visitors, this statement shares the Museum’s short and long-term goals and plans and will be continuously updated to reflect our evolving DEAI efforts. 

Shelburne Museum does not tolerate any forms of racism, harassment, injustice, bias, or discrimination experienced in our community or at the Museum by staff, Board of Trustees, or visitors. To report any concerns related to any form of harassment, intimidation, or intolerance please contact or


Shelburne Museum will promote and advance DEAI efforts through these five core values: 

  • We recognize that museums are not neutral places.
  • We understand the strength inherent in prioritizing and lifting up DEAI throughout all aspects of visitor, staff, and Board of Trustees engagement. 
  • We acknowledge that personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination, bias, and inequities are systemic issues that too often are embedded within our field. We seek to critically examine these issues and foster change through sustained effort and commitment to DEAI initiatives.
  • We strive to evaluate our current practices, policies, and procedures and to be vigilant in promoting the advancement of DEAI at our institution. 
  • We commit to actively pursue short- and long-term collaborative DEAI initiatives and advocate for the prioritization of time and resources required to achieve these goals.


In undertaking this work, Shelburne Museum defines DEAI principles in accordance with those articulated by the American Alliance of Museums:

Diversity is all the ways that people are different and the same at the individual and group levels. Even when people appear the same, they are different. Organizational diversity requires examining and questioning the makeup of a group to ensure that multiple perspectives are represented.

Equity is the fair and just treatment of all members of a community. Equity requires commitment to strategic priorities, resources, respect, and civility, as well as ongoing action and assessment of progress toward achieving specified goals.

Accessibility is giving equitable access to everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience. Accessibility encompasses the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how organizations make space for the characteristics that each person brings.

Inclusion refers to the intentional, ongoing effort to ensure that diverse individuals fully participate in all aspects of organizational work, including decision-making processes. It also refers to the ways that diverse participants are valued as respected members of an organization and/or community.


Shelburne Museum is committed to serving our community by:

  1. Developing a comprehensive institutional DEAI plan to identify long and short-term goals and strategies across all facets of the Museum’s operations.
  2. Working with learning partners to develop and conduct ongoing DEAI professional development and training throughout the institution.
  3. Fostering an inclusive, transparent, and supportive workplace, by strengthening a safe space for staff learning and authentic engagement recognizing this may require the implementation of new or revised policies and procedures. 
  4. Expanding and reinforcing zero-tolerance policies and creating a safe reporting structure regarding racism, discrimination, or sexual and gender-based misconduct that may arise at our institution, followed by necessary corrective actions. 
  5. Committing to diversifying Shelburne Museum’s board of trustees, staff, and volunteers at all levels, and developing strategies for best practice compliance in equitable hiring, support, and retention of staff. 
  6. Addressing the biases in our institutional history, including our place on unceded land of the Western Abenaki people and the legacies of the capital that funded the Museum.
  7. Ensuring that the Museum experience—such as its collections, exhibitions, and programming—presents content in an equitable and accessible manner by identifying and working to eliminate physical, technological, financial, and other barriers. 
  8. Creating meaningful partnerships and relationships within our larger community to amplify and support diverse voices and ensure that all visitors feel welcome, seen, heard, and valued.
  9. Continually work to foster cultural competency and identify areas for DEAI learning and improvement, strategize solutions, and secure resources necessary to support implementation while maintaining transparency and accountability to our staff and community in our evolving efforts to better the Museum. 

Land Acknowledgement

Shelburne Museum is located upon land sacred to the Western Abenaki people. Called N’dakinna, or “our homeland,” this place has long served as an important site of meeting and cultural exchange. We honor and celebrate the Abenaki’s rich history as the traditional and ongoing stewards of these lands and waters. We remember that this land is unceded and recognize the enduring injustices rooted in colonialism and systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples. With humility and gratitude, we remain committed to sustaining meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples to share this land as a place to gather, learn, and thrive.

Learn More

Sugar History

Shelburne Museum acknowledges the complex history of the capital provided by Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb in the creation of the institution in 1947. The Havemeyer family immigrated to New York from Germany as sugar bakers and subsequently made their fortune by industrializing the process of refining sugar over three generations, including founding the American Sugar Refining Company (later Domino Sugar) in 1887, and ultimately controlling the commodity in the United States through a monopoly in the late 19th century. The industry relied on the harvesting of sugar cane by enslaved peoples and their descendants in the Caribbean as well as the processing of that raw material by immigrant workers laboring in harsh and dangerous conditions. Profits from the sugar industry enabled privileged opportunities for the Havemeyer family and ultimately provided the resources inherited by Electra Havemeyer Webb that were central to the origin of Shelburne Museum.

Institutional reflection is a critical process and a core value at Shelburne Museum. The responsibility falls upon us to understand the weight of the organization’s economic history, examine the long-term cultural and environmental impacts of the sugar industry, and develop learning initiatives that respond to these issues and to create avenues for dialogue and understanding.

Below is a list of additional resources to learn more about the sugar trade:

  • Abbott, Elizabeth. SugarA Bittersweet History (Penguin Canada, 2008).
  • Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and PowerThe Place of Sugar in Modern History (Viking Penguin, 1985).
  • Fakhri, Michael. Sugar and the Making of International Trade Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

DEAI Practices at Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum formed an interdepartmental DEAI Steering Committee in 2020 to lead conversations surrounding the importance of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in museum practice. Since its inception, the DEAI Steering Committee has worked to lay the foundations for DEAI frameworks at the Museum, and established DEAI Values, DEAI Commitments, a Land Acknowledgement, and a Legacy Statement to be upheld by all staff and supported by DEAI Steering Committee efforts.

Through a frequent and consistent meeting schedule, the DEAI Steering Committee acts to support strategies for learning, development, and implementation. Ongoing DEAI learning and engagement opportunities for all staff include participation in intermittent trainings, quarterly DEAI Coffee Hour programming, and a DEAI Reading Group, as well as monthly DEAI newsletters and access to DEAI Learning Libraries in staff common areas.

Learn more about our previous and upcoming activity by exploring the drop downs below.

  • Augmenting and implementing visitor policies that center accessibility and inclusion.
  • Continue to improve visitor resources to enhance engagement opportunities.
  • Review and increase mobility and accessibility across the Museum’s grounds and buildings.
  • Ongoing cultural and professional education and training for staff, especially with regard to the Native American Initiative and Perry Center for Native American Art project.
  • Website adjustments including the creation of an accessibility webpage, and the expansion of the DEAI at Shelburne Museum webpage.
  • Implement inclusive language, policies, and procedures in the Employee Handbook and hiring practices.
  • Work with training partners to develop and conduct a suite of DEAI training workshops for year-round and seasonal staff.
  • Expand accessibility components of education programming including Free First Friday Eve and Sensory Friendly Friday events and adjust Collections Management best practices for archival and art handling procedures.
  • Continue DEAI Learning Libraries, monthly DEAI newsletters, monthly DEAI Coffee Hour, and DEAI Reading Group programming for all staff.
  • DEAI Coordinator position was created and began governance of the DEAI Steering Committee.
  • Board of Trustees approved and adopted the DEAI Values, DEAI Commitments, Land Acknowledgement, and Sugar History Statement. Following this action, the DEAI at Shelburne Museum webpage was created to publicly share this information.
  • DEAI Steering Committee guidelines and expectations, guidelines for Land Acknowledgement Usage, and a Community Centered Leave benefit were developed and ratified by the committee for all staff.
  • Discussed opportunities to expand gender inclusion and belonging and conducted the review of single-use restroom compliance with both ADA and Vermont state standards, created personal pronoun pins for staff use, and supported attendance to a LGBTQAI+ Identities training through New England Museum Association.
  • Developed ongoing learning opportunities for all staff including a 2023 training plan, monthly DEAI Coffee Hour programming, a bi-annual DEAI Reading Group, monthly DEAI newsletters, and DEAI Learning Libraries.