Inclusion and Diversity: Two Museums in the Heart of Los Angeles

By Mina Shea, President, NDSC, Docent, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (July 2018)

Photo: Mina Shea at the Japanese American National Museum

As President of the National Docent Symposium Council (and a docent), I have the great privilege of learning from and sometimes visiting an amazing range of cultural institutions in both the US and Canada.

A recent visit to Los Angeles was an opportunity to connect personally with the educational staff of some of the larger institutions already familiar with our organization. I also discovered two very important cultural institutions: The Museum of Tolerance (MOT) and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Robert Moriguchi, a docent of 20 years with the Japanese American National Museum guided us through the primary exhibition "Common Ground: The Heart of the Community."  Bob shared his personal experience in an internment camp during WWII and began the tour by saying that the Japanese American story is an American story, and that history is an important teacher.


Robert Moriguchi,Docent, Japanese American National Museum

The museum also shared an exhibit on present-day immigrants, "What we carried –Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria," about their journey to create a better future for themselves. The Japanese American National Museum not only tells a story about Japanese Americans but also tries to create cross-cultural empathy with other exhibits like "What we Carried." 

















The Museum of Tolerance is more than you expect. Currently it is the home of a special exhibit, a beautiful and thought-provoking set of works by Salvador Dali done in 1968 marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. The Museum of Tolerance excels at engagement with such displays as "The Point of View Diner," a re-creation of a 1950's diner that "serves" a menu of controversial topics on video jukeboxes. Visitors input their opinions and results are instantly tabulated.


                   Point of View Diner at the Museum of Tolerance

Their outreach to the community is admirable. In their "Tools for Tolerance" program the MOT not only offers training for educators but also engages community organizations.

I invite you as a docent/guide or an educator to check out these two special museums. Maybe just a website visit? Better yet, a personal visit next time you are in Los Angeles.

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