Museum Renaming Process
Howka! Hi! Hola! Kamusta! Nǐ hǎo!
It’s us, your new museum.
Formerly known as the San Diego Museum of Man, the Museum of Us is a new identity for a 100-plus-year-old institution, beloved by generations of San Diegans and tourists alike. Located here in Balboa Park, on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay people, our mission is to “inspire human connections by exploring the human experience.” We do that by sharing alternative narratives that challenge peoples’ assumptions and help them see the world from different perspectives.
Whether it’s showing how the power of secrets can make us feel less alone, to helping visitors better understand the science, history, and experience of race in our country; our exhibits and programs present diverse stories that help define all of us.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve turned the very idea of a museum on its head, challenging assumptions every step of the way. We’ve discussed taboos, swapped our inner-most secrets, invited aerosol artists to make their mark on our walls, and even skated a half-pipe on our balcony, sharing beers under the rotunda all the while.”
– Micah Parzen, Chief Executive Officer
Words have power. Names are no different. Names hold memories, emotions, values, and legacy. After operating as the San Diego Museum of Man for over 40 years, it is time we step into a new identity that better reflects our work towards equity, inclusion, and decolonization.
Discussion about changing to a more inclusive name began in 1991 at the request of community members. For years, the gendered name of the Museum made many visitors feel excluded and unwelcome. Not only did the Museum’s old name support patriarchal systems, but it represented a colonial past that perpetuated racist narratives and harmed Indigenous communities.
Today, we are addressing our colonial legacy in a number of ways, including actively listening to the voices of San Diego community members, Indigenous Peoples nationally, and our national and international visitors. We believe that listening must lead to accountability, and accountability is bonded to action. So on June 24th, 2020, the Board of Trustees approved to change the “San Diego Museum of Man” to the “Museum of Us.” On August 2nd, 2020, we are excited to share this important moment in our organization’s history with the public.
The name change process took place over two-plus years, and was marked by extensive community involvement − including stakeholder meetings, surveys, and an interactive name change exhibit temporarily installed in the Museum’s rotunda. The final selection was driven by several factors, including a gender based equity perspective.
What is the Museum of Us?
A place for the diverse stories that define us.
The Museum of Us is a place for many voices, not the traditional authoritative academic “museum voice” we are so accustomed to.
A place which finds the universal in the particular.
At their core, our offerings illustrate the intersection of our shared human experience. Exhibits such as BEERology, Living with Animals, and Cannibals: Myth and Reality delve into universal themes that cut across time and cultures.
A place for immersive and interactive experiences.
We use immersive exhibit experiences to create active and sensory-exciting encounters where people can be expressive about personal, cultural, and societal topics. Visitors are invited – and encouraged – to leave their mark on the Museum of Us by engaging with exhibit interactives that call for reflection and sharing.
Our new identity is one of many changes to our institution, both internally and externally, that flips the idea of a museum and reflects our new role in the community:
What Makes Us
To best serve our community, authentically reconcile with our past, and advance our field at large, we are dedicated to a core set of programmatic initiatives. This is what we do and what we stand for:
Inspired by Ho-Chunk Scholar Dr. Amy Lonetree’s work in her seminal book “Decolonizing Museums”, learn more about decolonizing initiatives at the Museum of Us:
American Alliance of Museums | January 8, 2020
American Alliance of Museums | July 1, 2019
The Washington Post | October 11, 2018
Our exhibit “Race: Are We So Different?”, originally developed by the American Anthropological Association, is a cornerstone of the Museum and has been developed into a variety of anti-racist educational offerings. Participants engage in dialogue about the science, history, and experience of race in our country, and how to build more equitable communities moving forward.
Museum of Us | Exhibit
Museum of Us | Blog Post
San Diego Union-Tribune | February 20, 2011
The #MuseumsAreNotNeutral campaign was founded by La Tanya S. Autry and Mike Murawski on the belief that, “Museums have the potential to be relevant, socially-engaged spaces in our communities, acting as agents of positive change.”
Monument Lab | May 14, 2020
Medium.com | July 12, 2020
American Alliance of Museums | June 28, 2018
The Museum of Us will continue to evolve as a place, and in our work. The COVID-19 pandemic has already been a catalyst for significant structural change. We have had to greatly reduce our team and recalibrate operations. But, we will rebuild in a manner that is characterized by equity and financial sustainability.
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘When you know better, you do better.’ We have learned so much as an institution over the past 105 years. We know better now, so we are doing better. Every day is a learning opportunity, and—as is often the case—our mistakes are our greatest teachers. We must not be afraid to make, and learn from them, together. As we continue to know better, we will do better still.
That is our commitment to you.”
– Micah Parzen, Chief Executive Officer
Get Involved with Us
In the months ahead, there will be many opportunities to get involved and leave your mark on the Museum of Us. We invite you to join us as we share, question, listen, and learn – together. Regardless of where you are in the world, there is room for you here to inspire human connections and drive positive change in your community – both locally and globally.
Support from our community allows us to develop unique and inspiring programming, foster dialogue and lifelong learning through our innovative exhibits, and steward the cultural resources entrusted to our care.
Double your impact! Thanks to the generosity of a Museum of Us Trustee, all gifts made until June 30, 2021 will be matched, up to $50,000. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!
Send an anonymous secret to:
28241 Crown Valley Parkway, F-224
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
It might end up online or in an exhibit one day!
In summer 2018, we embarked on our first round of community engagement to collect feedback on six potential new names for the Museum. We are very grateful to all of our community members and patrons who provided us with their feedback! The results from our survey taught us a couple of things:
- While the idea of changing our name struck a nerve with some, overall, the response was quite positive. This tells us the public is ready for a change.
- While some of the potential names from this summer tested better than others (the top three were The Museum of Humankind, The Museum of Us, and The Human Experience), we are extending the process to (a) continue engaging with our community and stakeholders and (2) develop some additional name possibilities for testing.
The San Diego Museum of Man is in the beginning stages of renaming the institution. Our current name served us for 70 years, and now it is time to select a new name that better reflects our values of inclusivity, equity, and love; better describes all the people we serve and the stories we want to tell; and fully embodies our mission of inspiring human connections by exploring the human experience.
As the Museum moves forward in the process of selecting a new name, it is committed to an inclusive process that engages our stakeholders, including our visitors and community members, to collect their feedback on the names it is considering.
The Museum plans to launch its new name in spring 2020.