The Smithsonian in France 2021


How can museum professionals, educators, artists and civil society leaders work together to support young audiences in their reflection on major societal issues?  How can we make museums a more inclusive place where youth can debate and propose solutions to urgent social and climate questions? 

This series on inclusivity, diversity and sustainability is offered by the Embassy of the United States of America in France in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution throughout 2021. This project takes place in two phases: with a cycle of webinars for museum professionals and teachers in the spring, and a series of workshops with high school students in the fall. 

On this page you will find recordings of the webinars (with simultaneous interpretation or subtitling) and educational resources shared by the various discussants. 


Inclusive cultural practices 

These Franco-American conversations connect museum professionals, teachers, artists, and civil society leaders who use museums to engage with youth on questions of social justice and the future of the planet.  Participants interact directly with professionals in the United States on the future of equitable cultural practices inside and outside of our museums. 


February 4 – Inaugural panel discussion: Telling Stories That Matter For Our Shared Future 


Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Juliette GuépratteDirector of Strategy, Louvre-Lens Museum
Malcom Ferdinandresearcher in political environmental studiesFondation pour l’écologie politique Book Prize 2019  

Discussion moderated by Maxime Tellier, journalist at France Culture  

Video Telling Stories That Matter for Our Shared Future 


March 24 – The Fierce Urgency of Now: A Conversation on Race, Cultural Practice, and Our Shared Future  

Join a group of cultural workers and thought leaders for a timely conversation about the future of sound cultural practice both in and outside museum walls: 

What does an equitable and inclusive museum look like?
What constitutes equitable and honorable collection practice?
What is the role of educators and artists in ensuring that cultural institutions create truly safe spaces for difficult encounters?
What is needed to collaborate with communities as they call for decolonization, reciprocal learning, the repatriation of objects, shared authority, and so much more?   


Greg Adams, Interim Director, Smithsonian Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections 
Ping-Ann Addo, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Boston 
Junious Brickhouse, Urban Dance Educator, Choreographer, Cultural Preservationist 
Julia Loíza Gutiérrez-Rivera, Dancer-Choreographer, Arts Educator, Activist 
Lisa Sasaki, Director, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center at the Smithsonian  

Discussion moderated by Sabrina Lynn MotleyDirector, Smithsonian Folklife Festival   

Video (link)  

Resources (coming soon) 


April 7 – Earth Optimism: Beyond Gloom and Doom on Climate and Conservation 

Join us for a timely conversation about the future of sound cultural and environmental practice both in and outside museum walls. During this session, educators and museum professionals will learn what inspired the featured Earth Optimism storytellers to moving away from a narrative of doomsday to one of grounded, pragmatic optimism. Find out what an Earth Optimism framing includes and hear from colleagues and experts on how you can integrate this approach into your work. 


Nancy Knowlton (moderator), Coral Reef Biologist, Sant Chair in Marine Science Emerita, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Co-Founder of Earth Optimism
Ange Ansour, Founder and Director of Programs, Les Savanturiers
Rhett Butler , Founder, Mongabay Inspirations & News from 
Andrea Lipps, Associate Curator, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Isabel Nottaris, Deputy Director, Toulouse Museum of Natural History  

Video (Link) 


May 12 – Do Something! How museums and educators can engage the public to take environmental action 

Join us as we discuss examples of interdisciplinary programs and public engagement strategies and reflect on opportunities to further advance actions for a sustainable future.  In this session, we are convening museum curators, scientists, and education experts to exchange views on the following questions: 

What role and responsibility can / should museums and educators have to address our global environmental challenges?
How can museums and educators leverage their resources to create an innovative sustainability culture?
Can art and science collaborations build better relationships between humans and our natural world to drive conservation solutions?
How can new approaches to active and experiential learning teach young people about environmental resilience?  Finally, what opportunities are there to engage with global conservation events in 2021?

Discussants to be confirmed 

Video and resources (coming soon) 


From theory to practice 

The second phase will coincide with the opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which France will host in Marseille from September 3 to 11. We will be offering a series of practical workshops from September to December for high school students (precise schedule to be specified soon). This will be an opportunity to implement some of the good practices discussed during the spring cycle of conversations on how to help youths understand global issues and take local action (topics will include: food, culture and sustainable development; health and sustainability; national stories and social inclusion). 


The Smithsonian Institution 

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2021 and remains true to the wish of its founder James Smithson (1765-1829) to increase and diffuse knowledge. Today the institution includes 19 museums, 21 libraries, a national zoo and numerous scientific research centers across the United States, making it one of the most influential cultural institutions in the world. The Smithsonian has a global mission, and is actively involved in the conservation of biodiversity, the arts and culture.