Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Why Should Museums Diversify Their Library Collections?

February 28, 2024
Illustration by Neka King.

Illustration by Neka King

I like to think of museum collections like most parts of society, in that they are always growing. The Henry Ford is a history museum that talks about innovation on a wide scale, which should mean all types of people can see themselves in our collections. For me, that translates to collecting books that tell stories for everyone, for both our research library and our rare book collection. Recently, I worked with one of our associate curators to add more pop-up books to the collection, which allows us to talk about both paper arts and childhood experiences. Other times, it might mean adding LGBTQ+ reference texts to the research library so our teams can tell communities’ stories in a sensitive and accurate manner.

It is important for us to see gaps in the collection as opportunities for growth and learning. Whether these gaps are related to different racial identities, age groups, abilities or orientations, filling them is what makes a museum an inclusive place. While such changes are not always easy, we know as a museum we’re only as strong as our collections — that what we choose to collect and care for has meaning for us as stewards but also for our guests, who expect us to tell their stories and want to see themselves represented in history.

Sarah Andrus is a librarian at The Henry Ford

This post was adapted from an article in the Winter-Spring 2024 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.