Museums. Technology. Social Justice.

Hello! I'm a Web Developer at a museum in Chicago, but you likely know me by the activism work I do in museum and tech communities.

I'm an application developer at a museum in Chicago and a social justice activist. My activism work focuses on ending rape culture and patriarchy through my role as a volunteer educator for Rape Victim Advocates. I'm also a regular contributor at The Incluseum, co-creator of visitorsofcolor.tumblr.com, and my writing has been featured in Model View Culture and Fwd: Museums. You will also find me playing my guitar and sitar, composing noise, hiking, making herbal medicines, and drinking warm glasses of chai on cold winter nights.

Most people have heard about me from the above video of the Ignite talk I gave at MCN 2015 where I articulate my thoughts on museums and oppression. You may also know me by my work as co-creator of the Visitors of Color blog, where we document the experiences of people from marginalized communities who visit—and don't visit—museums.

Check it out on Tumblr
Front view of Aisha looking straight into the camera. Text reads “I want curation that shows the diversity within each culture, things that challenge the stereotypes that we subconsciously hold because of all the oppressive messages we see, hear and feel everyday.” Aisha Chaudhri, Reproductive Justice Activist and Educator

Recent Projects

Screenshot of 'Creating Anti-Oppressive Spaces in Museums' on github.com

Creating Anti-oppressive Spaces Online

November 2016 at MCN

At MCN 2015 I gave an Ignite talk that outlined my thinking about the connections between museums and awful, traumatic histories, and why it’s imperative that we as museum workers unpack how our institutions have benefited from those histories. A lot of people I talked to in the months after said the talk resonated with them, and they were fired up (YES!!), but didn’t quite know where to start.

At the same conference the following year, this tool was presented with specific ideas and practices that people could employ in their work towards this vision. Along with five other colleagues, I came up with a checklist that can be used before, during and after a tech project to help gauge how well we’re building our systems for as many people as possible. Listen to the audio from our session here and download the slides here.

Check it out on GitHub
First page of a handwritten letter from nikhil to Suse

Museums and Structural Change

Summer/Fall 2016

In the fall of 2016, Suse Cairns and I exchanged a series of letters over postal mail exploring the idea of structural change in museums and how it happens. We talked about a lot–connecting museums to a larger landscape of institutions, structural change as a process of healing, and how transformation must be aligned with other social liberation movements.

It was an interesting conversation because we both think about institutional transformation quite a lot, but we come from very different perspectives. It challenged me to think hard about my ideas in order to articulate them as clearly as I could. I learned so much from our exchange, and she told me she did to.

Check it out on medium.com
Split-pane photo. On the left side is the cover of the Fall 2016 issue of the magazine Model View Culture, and on the right side is a photo of the first page of my article in the magazine titled

Model View Culture article

Fall 2016

In the Fall 2016 issue of Model View Culture, a social justice tech magazine, I had an article titled “Thinking About Trauma in How We Build Tech Products.” I collaborated with Tanuja Jagernauth, a Healing Justice Organizer in Chicago, to get a stronger sense of the principles of trauma-informed care to base my article on. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s made me think more deeply about how our applications can create space for users who are processing these, and other traumatic events in their lives. The realities of oppression mean that so many of us are survivors of violence, assault, abuse, harassment, chronic stress and other acute and ongoing traumas. How are we, as technologists, working to understand and build in a way that is sensitive to that faced by so many: people of color, trans and queer folks, working class people, differently-abled people and other marginalized people?

A screenshot of the visualization. The top half is a bar graph showing the volume of enslaved people that were removed from the African continent by year. The bottom half shows the years object were created that are from the African collections of a handful different art museums.

Timelines of Museums' African Collections and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Spring 2016 at Museums and the Web

At Museums and the Web a colleague and I did a demonstration of the uses of D3.js, a powerful data visualization library. To address the questions I’d been asking for some time: how have museums benefited from slavery, I pulled publicly available museum data of the creation dates of objects in the African collections of a handful of different art museums, and put them side-by-side with when enslaved people were removed from the African continent. Check out the code on GitHub.

Check it out

Awards and Honors

A photo of me with the Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates. I'm holding my Gender Equality Award, and hand-carved wooden sculpture, and we're standing in from of a banner that reads

Gender Equality Award, United Nations Women

2016

Read more

Some of the gifts I received as part of my award: a pin that says

Education & Training Volunteer of the Year, Rape Victim Advocates

2016
A photo of me playing sitar during The Masrayana

Jeff Citation Award, Original Incidental Music

2006

Instagram

Recent Blog Articles

2017

MCN 2017 takeaways

MCN is one of two museum technology conferences that happen annually. While there are many talks and conversations diving deep into technical topics, the conference is most known for its threads on organizational culture and social transformation. Following are some of my major takeaways.

2016

2015

Text from my Ignite talk at MCN 2015

Last night I gave an Ignite talk at MCN 2015 in Minneapolis about museums and oppression. An Ignite talk is a 5 minute presentation with 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. I fit a lot in there, so I thought it might be useful for folks at the conference to refer back to what I said. Below is a video, my slides, and the text from my talk, entitled Towards an Anti-Oppression Museum Manifesto:

2014

Museums and #BlackLivesMatter

There’s been discussion among museum professionals questioning if and how our institutions should participate in the movements that have arisen from Ferguson in some way. As I’m sure many people in the conversation have been, I’ve been extremely affected by the recent decisions to not indict law enforcement in the killings of unarmed black people, and these recent injustices have occupied my mind a great deal in recent weeks. I recognize that these decisions are part of a history of the state murdering black people with impunity that goes back hundreds of years. I also recognize that this history includes the murder of and sexual violence against women and trans folks as well, whose stories are often met with silence. With this weight, I share in the great mix of emotions many of us are experiencing. And if we do talk about responding in some way, I want it to be based in reason and compassion, with an understanding of our relationships with black people and our shared histories.

Starting a Mens Feminist Reading Group

Over the past year, I’ve gotten together with a group of three of my friends who are men every two months or so to read writings by feminist authors. We’ve read fiction, non-fiction and essays by feminist writers, mostly women of color. It’s been fun for me to connect with my friends in a new way, and for all of us to grow our thinking together and be critical of ways in which we participate in sexism, male domination and rape culture. Here’s essentially what I did to get it going:

Towards an anti-oppression museum manifesto

During a panel about open authority at #MCN2014, I was struck by a question Porchia Moore asked: “why don’t visitors of color participate at the rates of other groups?” This is a question that I’ve pondered myself for some time, and I appreciated her creating space for discussion with other museum professionals.

Diwali: joy, hope and justice

For some years now, I’ve been wanting to rethink Diwali in a way that celebrates the holiday as an expression of my wishes and hopes for a new year. In a conversation about pujas and Hindu ritual this week, a friend said to me “personally, the best prayers are those that are from the heart.” Her words inspired me to let go of my longing for finding connection in rituals that I don’t understand to create an expression of ritual that is meaningful to me. I still appreciate that many Hindu rituals have been performed for a long time by people all over the world, there’s something powerful about sharing in a common consciousness through shared ritual. But this year, I thought I’d take some of the information and perspectives shared with me over the past several years to think about what a celebration of Diwali would be like that fully resonated with me.

WTF is Linked Open Data?

I’ve been hearing about Linked Open Data for years. I’ve sat in on sessions at conferences and followed many discussions on Twitter and e-mail lists. At times, the tone of these conversations seemed like “this is such an awesome tool that nobody is using.” But I never really understood what it was. I was left still wondering “WTF is Linked Open Data?”

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