Museums. Technology. Social Justice.

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

I'm a Web Architect at a museum in Chicago and a social justice activist. As a facilitator, educator and strategic planner, my activism work focuses on institutional healing and accountability from historic traumas like colonialism, slavery, genocide, and war. I'm a long-time volunteer with Resilience, Chicago's largest rape crisis center, I'm a regular contributor at The Incluseum, and my writing has been featured in Model View Culture, Fwd: Museums and the Journal for Museum Education. You will also find me playing guitar and stand-up bass, hiking, making herbal medicines, and drinking warm glasses of chai on cold winter nights.

In addition to the above video, you may 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

nikhil, Aletheia, Joanne, Karleen and Chris sitting on a stage speaking at MASS Action year three.

MASS Action Facilitation Guides

October 2018

Over the course of 2018, I collaborated with a group of folks at my museum to facilitate monthly reading groups on the MASS Action toolkit open to all staff. We went month-by-month discussing one chapter of the toolkit at a time until we finished. The reading group sessions were attended by 20-70 people per month over two repeated sessions. We pulled out themes from each chapter and organized activities to help staff engage with each other and the content. The groups were a great success. We shared copies of our facilitation guides on Google Drive for folks who want to organize similar reading groups at their organizations:

Check it out on Google Drive
Four Instagram photos from my takeover

Curated Outfitters Instagram takeover

October 2018

During MASS Action 2018, I took over the Curated Outfitters Instagram account to post cute fashion photos of attendees. There was so much to document and so little time, I captured only a slice of the on-point cuteness that was present at the convening. I posted most of the photos in the days after I can home, so it was a nice way to say goodbye to all the new people I met and dear friends I got to connect with while there.

Check it out on Instagram
Photo of nikhil and Bindu facilitating the workshop

Radical South Asian history workshop at Chicago Desi Youth Rising

August 2018

As part of Chicago Desi Youth Rising’s annual retreat, I co-organized and co-facilitated a workshop creating space to imagine and outline a radical history of South Asia. Our intention was to explore erasures that have existed over time due to colonialism, genocide, and war, and create alliances with other surviving communities of traumatic histories including slavery. I’ve been a supporter of Chicago Desi Youth Rising since the project started in 2014 (my partner was one of the co-founders, and I designed their logo!), so I was thrilled to bring the facilitation work that I do in museum communities to my radical South Asian community.

Cover of the September 2018 edition of the Journal of Museum Education. Title in is red and white, with an image of red and grey tapestry with many threads unraveling.

Facing Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Feminizing Museum

July 2018

In this article, Aletheia Wittman and I discuss data collected through a survey conducted about incidences of sexual abuse and harassment experienced by museum workers. We explore the results of the survey in relation to the gender-based division of labor and skills among the museum workforce. We look to the responses to this survey as a gauge of how much power women and gender non-conforming people have in their daily work lives in museums and propose actions that could increase empowerment and support. In light of events of the moment, The Journal’s publisher has generously made the article available to the general public.

Check it out on Journal of Museum Education

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 front of a banner that reads

Gender Equality Award, United Nations Women

2016

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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’ve been discussions 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 on 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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