Wednesday, January 15, 2020

ADKX, Wild Center Working on Diversity

The Adirondack Experience (ADKX) and The Wild Center have received significant grant funding to advance their own diversity goals and those of the region.

The funding is expected to enable them to conduct research and staff training, and revise internal policies and procedures. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, is supporting the initiative with a $211,874 grant from its “Museums Empowered” program. Empire State Development (ESD)’s “Market New York Program” will provide an additional $129,945 in funding.

“Support from the federal and state levels represents an opportunity to reach out to underrepresented communities to gain a better understanding of how the Adirondacks are viewed and why or why not people choose to live in or visit the region,” and announcement sent to the press said.

ADKX and The Wild Center, are planning to conduct focus groups and online surveys with members of the African American and Latino communities in four metro areas surrounding the Adirondack Park: Plattsburgh, the Capital Region, Utica, and Syracuse. The research, to be carried out by People, Places & Design Research of Northampton, MA, is expected to identify both obstacles and opportunities ADKX and The Wild Center face in their efforts to serve people of color.

The results of the research is expected to be shared with nonprofits and government agencies throughout the Adirondacks in late 2020 or early 2021. Depending on the findings, future research might be carried out with additional communities of color in the four metro areas. Additional areas might also be identified for similar research projects.

“Everyone is concerned about the extremely low numbers of people of color among visitors to our institutions and our region,” Adirondack Experience Executive Director David M. Kahn said in the announcement of the grants. “Finally, we will have some real data to work with to help us figure out what we can do about the situation and take appropriate action. We’re very excited about the possibilities.”

“We believe that the Adirondack Park can be welcoming to all visitors,” Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said. “It’s incumbent on us to make everyone feel as though they belong. This investment is a step forward in identifying where we may fall short of that goal and what steps we can put in place to reach it.”.

ADKX and the Center are also partnering with Dr. Donathan Brown and Cindy Rodriguez of Adirondack Diversity Solutions to address staff recruitment, retention, and professional development policies and procedures. A group of three experts from the museum world are also providing guidance: Ann Hernandez of the Washington D.C.-based Association of Science and Technology Centers; Dr. Porchia Moore, Inclusion Catalyst at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina; and Cecile Shellman, consultant in diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion for museums and former Diversity Catalyst at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh.

ADKX and Wild Center year-round and seasonal staff are expected to participate in a diversity-training program to better enable the two organizations to serve the needs of diverse visitors. Hiring and human resource management policies are also being reviewed as part of the project to assist the two organizations in diversifying their staffs.

ADKX and the Center are working to coordinate their efforts with the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI), a consortium of nonprofit organizations working to develop and promote strategies to help the Adirondack Park become more welcoming and inclusive of all New Yorkers and visitors to the region. ADI recently hired its first Executive Director, Nicole Hylton-Patterson.

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23 Responses

  1. Bob Meyer says:

    Just look at the photos of the members of all the various groups in the Adirondacks; from ADK to you name it. Almost all white. Almost all Christian if you look at the surnames.
    Think of the experience of the black Sierra Club exec. awhile back and the experiences of bigotry, racism and antiSemitism that continues to this day.. the looks, the comments heard. Let’s be real here folks. Systemic prejudice is alive and ugly, especially in places homogeneous populations. eg. the Adirondacks
    I hate being negative. I know many wonderful Adirondackers with only love of everybody in their hearts, but this isn’t going away. Some adults can become enlightened and change but its the early education of the young that is vital to future change and inclusiveness.
    If this fails, our beloved Park will suffer culturally, economically and the protections so vital to the Forest Preserve will be eroded for lack of statewide support.

    • John Warren says:

      Well said. We should also point out that it’s not for people to tell others how they feel. This is a well documented problem, it’s been discussed by every day people and professionals of every stripe. People have done a lot of work to better understand the problem, seek input from those affected, and work with whoever is interested toward solutions. The negetive commenters here have done none of that – they simply have an opinion.

  2. Harv Sibley says:

    If I read this right, this is over $300,000. I understand the goal of sensitivity and diversity awareness, but the fine hardworking folks in the ADKs could really use that funding to help them survive and prosper. There is suffering that goes unseen.


  3. Charlie S says:

    ““Everyone is concerned about the extremely low numbers of people of color among visitors to our institutions and our region,” Adirondack Experience Executive Director David M. Kahn said in the announcement of the grants.”

    Why does this have to be about race? Maybe people of color do not wish to come to the region! Maybe it’s a cultural thing…theirs. It’s not like there are signs up along the Northway “No people of color allowed.” This is so strange to me like just about everything else nowadays. And what I also still find strange is that we don’t have the ‘Adirondack Museum’ anymore, we erased that name from that institution and gave it a name that just doesn’t fit. Nowadays when I walk in there it feels so different because it is not the ‘Adirondack Museum’ anymore. It’s almost the same as somebody coming along and changing my name, that i’ve had since hour one, to Gilbert. Has the name change brought more people to it? Are they faring better because it is now the Adirondack Experience? Every thing is just so strange anymore.

    • Westernedge says:

      Thank you, Charlie S. I agree with you. Has anyone done a good poll of our dear fellow citizens of color why they don’t come to our region? Maybe, just maybe, it does not seem attractive to them? Being a “ foreigner” myself, I have never felt any lack of friendliness, openness or hospitality in the Park. If that were the case, I would not have moved here!

    • Sula says:

      Agree. And “Adirondack Experience”? Weird. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    • Paul says:

      Charlie this may seem strange to you since you clearly do not understand things like the barriers that some people experience. They are not “signs” on the road. How do you know that a person may not feel particularly included or welcome or comfortable like you do or did? Comments like this confirm that there is the problem. Go read up on diversity and inclusion and educate yourself and get back to us.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree. Race may certainly play a role, but I feel culture and socioeconomic factors may play a bigger role. I hope they do not limit the studies to race factors alone. Perhaps these studies will find a way to differentiate these factors, or perhaps they will find they are inseparable.

      I grew up in a farming area of PA that was predominantly white. My hometown had a population of about 1500. There were never more than a few non-white families in the area at any given time. I have always been uncomfortable in more urban areas (like Plattsburgh), and virtually terrified in big cities. I avoid urban areas and big cities like the plague. I don’t get to many museums as a result. Is that because I am white, or just unfamiliar with cities? Could I learn to be comfortable in a city – probably, but what is my incentive to find out? Would my life be better there? Perhaps these studies will give us some answers, but cultural factors, gender factors, and socioeconomic factors need to be considered as much as racial factors in determining what makes each of us tick. Some people simply may not feel comfortable in rural or wilder areas.

    • Vanessa says:

      Just because the barriers aren’t signs on the road, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Having this research will be super valuable to figure out how the ADKs can be welcoming to everyone.

    • Wally Elton says:

      “Maybe people of color do not wish to come to the region! ” Maybe. The question is, “Why not?” In part, this is an effort to find out.

  4. Charlie S says:

    I know barriers Paul! This is a very close-minded society, where barriers and suppression pop up too often, especially in or near those conservative margins.

    “How do you know that a person may not feel particularly included or welcome or comfortable like you do or did?”
    > I don’t know! Do you know that it has been this? By what I’m getting from reading the above, people of color aren’t even showing up in the region.

    Diversity! It is part of my constitution…a liberal thing I suppose.

    • Scott says:

      So the ghetto is racist to than we should do study’s on why people should travel to these neighborhoods for vacation. This how idiotic this world has become. I’ve vacationed in ADKS for over 40 years and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. While my friends and coworkers travel the world and tell me I’m crazy. How about we let people live there live and enjoy what they want

  5. Jill says:

    I’m sorry Paul, but I have to agree with Charlie.

    I don’t want to spend my time in Arizona. It’s not because I feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. It’s just not my kind of place. I don’t go to NASCAR races or NBA games. It’s not because I feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. It’s just not interesting to me. Why do we have to blame everything on racism? Maybe it comes down to personal preferences. Or maybe it comes down to finances. I know a stay anywhere remotely touristy these days, including the Adirondacks adds up super quick. I know because I’ve tried to do it myself for a long weekend and had to settle for a day. Fortunately, I don’t live far so that’s a possibility. Please don’t go pinning labels on people you don’t know in the least or accusing them of being uneducated. That just makes you look ignorant and uneducated, which I’m sure is not the case.

  6. Jill says:

    I’m incredibly curious to know that the rate of success has been for other institutions that have conducted this type of research. What other museums have done these studies and what has their rate of success been? Can any be cited with confidence? This seems like a lot of money for answers that may prove to be ambiguous.

    • Balian the Cat says:


      I think there is all sorts of good social science on this topic but it’s a difficult subject to delve into for some of the reasons you elude to. Lets start with your question regarding everything boiling down to racism: I believe there are cultures who, for reasons of their shared history, fear the forest and separation from their idea of safety. I believe there are cultures who prefer to do everything in large family groups for whom solitude is unappealing and the thought of a group permit is confusing. I think there are lots of things that are hard to talk about because one side of the conversation would view it as a challenge to their beliefs or the status quo. Humans resist change. We haven’t really blamed anything on racism in this country until the last 50 years or so and then only begrudgingly. Perhaps it’s time that we did look at things through that particular lens? Americans go abroad and expect everyone to speak English, they expect everywhere to have food that is familiar to them, and they practically demand access to the amenities they feel accustomed to – I cannot imagine how uncomfortable I would feel in downtown Kampala where nobody looked like, sounded like, or behaved like I do despite the fact that I bet there aren’t any signs that say “we don’t serve your kind here.” This nation is less than half a century removed from turning fire hoses and dogs loose on people because they were different. It shouldn’t be that hard to at least consider framing things in a more inclusive way. That said, I agree with everyone that some things are done to garner votes and appear to come from a place of concern. Nobody should be forced or bused into anything or place they don’t want to be just so we can look diverse.

      • Jill says:

        Balian the Cat, your response is well written and respectful. I appreciate that very much and I respect your point of view as well. I’d just like to say for the record though that personally, I speak one language fairly fluently and a second well enough to get me by if necessary. If I travel to another country, I attempt ahead of time to at least learn some basic phrases. I look forward to trying new foods and participating in local activities. I go out of my way to leave with a better understanding of the place and people I have visited. I don’t expect them to accommodate my needs and whims. It’s a choice. I guess what I’m trying to get at is I don’t expect museums or any other place to feel the need to “include” me. I go willingly to learn and experience. Often times that means feeling uncomfortable, like for me to travel to Turkey, Guadeloupe, Equador, or even NYC or rural Mississippi. Maybe getting more people up here as tourists or as permanent residents comes down to simple economics. Instead of trying to change the identities of these museums, towns, communities, and histories, why not focus on what makes the Adirondacks so special and unique while making it affordable to visit and live here. The research seems to be a moot point and the only ones who will truly benefit will be the consultants and the research firm. Maybe it all just sounds good.

        • Balian the Cat says:


          Thank you for reiterating your central point. I glossed over it in my initial response. I have great respect for the way you comport yourself online and abroad. I identify with your desire to experience different things by immersion in them. I also agree that we, as Adirondackers, should represent ourselves as who we are not alter that to paint a more inclusive or diverse picture. The uniqueness of this area should be it’s selling point – I just wonder if the concept of privilege (a term I am uncomfortable with myself and struggling to understand as I strive to become a better person) is behind my agenda when it comes to the needs of others? It must be possible for us to retain our identity and sense of place while at the same time giving more thought to the comfort of others.

  7. Jill says:

    I’ll just clarify that those languages I spoke of above are of course, in addition to English. I should have have worded that better.

  8. Vanessa says:

    I would like to point out to the fact that often these types of diversity related articles on the almanack appear to get the most comments. (Except for rail-trail stuff, but let’s not go there…)

    I think the fact that this topic in and of itself remaining “controversial” is strong evidence that the above research is sorely needed. Why wouldn’t groups concerned with tourism want to make tourism more widely appealing in the region? I think the automatic defensiveness on some folks’ part is perhaps a big part of the issue

    • Jim S. says:

      Many people who are not racist have biases that they don’t realize or intend.

    • Wally Elton says:

      Good observation! Few people are overtly racist, but any of us may send subtle signals – or just act in ways that are alien to visitors of different cultures – that make others uncomfortable.

    • Jill says:

      I’d simply like to know what hard facts support the effectiveness of these studies. Is there any measurable data that supports the value of the study? Is there anything to prove that once the studies are done, the suggestions followed, the outreach performed, that diversity is achieved and sustained?

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