Updated: March 20, 2015
We understand and have heard the public concerns related to an event that had been scheduled for March 19.
The Missouri History Museum often partners with community groups to present meaningful programs for the public. As we have been going through strategic planning over the past month, we have been looking closely at all the programs and community partners with which we work. We are striving to have an increased emphasis on programs that relate to our exhibits and our collections.
The event that was planned for March 19 went through significant changes following the original co-sponsorship proposal sent to us on February 1. We were initially open to the changes and posted information about the program on our website. However, when the president of our organization learned of this event, she urged our Community Education and Events staff to review the program through the lens of relating to our exhibits and collections. She also had questions about why a Washington University student event was not being hosted on campus.
As staff looked at the changes to this program with this in mind, we determined that the adding of a third topic diluted the focus too much from talking about Ferguson. Ferguson is the part of the event that relates to our collection and our local history, and thus, our mission. Our main issue was never with talking about Palestine. The issue was with adding a third topic to the discussion.
We often ask our community partners to make changes to programs throughout the planning process. It is not unusual for Museum staff to ask community partners to streamline a program. In this case, we simply asked our partners to go back to the program as originally proposed or find another venue. We never canceled the event.
We are currently in the process of planning a moderated panel discussion related to Palestinian and Israeli history for later this year. This event will include the plurality of voices that we believe is needed to adequately address the complexities of these historical events. This event will be related to an upcoming exhibit on our schedule.
The Missouri History Museum is proud to serve as a national model for museums on how to address difficult topics. Our professional staff has extensive experience planning events like this. Community partners rely on our expertise to create a successful event.
We are sorry that there are groups and individuals who feel silenced by us. That was certainly not our intent. We are not silencing anyone. We just want to have oversight over events we co-host in our space. When a community partner comes to us with an idea for an event, looking for us to partner and provide a free venue, we have the right to request changes to the program to ensure our standards are met. We will be giving Palestinian organizations a chance for their voices to be heard in the moderated panel discussion format for which we have become well known.
We realize that many people may not be happy with this decision. It is completely within their First Amendment right to share their thoughts on the subject. We have heard those concerns. We have the right to determine how, when, and what subject matter is presented in our facility. The issues related to Palestinian and Israeli history are complex. They require a plurality of voices and careful planning.
We hope those who are upset will attend the event we are currently planning. We will announce details once we have them confirmed in the coming weeks.