The third annual Black in Natural History Museums week will take place Oct 15-21 with online and in-person events that highlight the past and present contributions of Black people to natural history museums.

This year, the week’s program offers an exploration of the varied career paths within natural history museums and snapshots of Black professionals who have successfully navigated them. As in previous years, new and returning participants will have the opportunity to introduce themselves and showcase their work in a social media rollcall. The next several days will be dedicated to unique aspects of natural history work, featuring panel discussions with scientists, artists, educators and leaders. The week rounds out with a celebration of the Black natural history community and stories of historical figures whose work helped illuminate the natural world.

Flyer listing the activities to take place during the 2023 Black in Natural History week
The 2023 Black in Natural History Week will feature the usual rollcoll and homecoming events at the beginning at end of the week and will also include sessions on art, outreach and leadership.

Illustration by Alnycea Blackwell

The events and the organization behind them got their start in 2021, when founder Adania Flemming went looking for people with a similar background as hers. Flemming is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Florida’s department of biology and trained as an ichthyologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History. She was well-connected with colleagues whose research was similar to her own, but few of her peers were Black.

Flemming launched Black in Natural History as a way to reduce that isolation. Now in its third year, the group offers a space where Black professionals can share their experiences and celebrate their identity.

“I’m really proud of the community that keeps growing from this,” Flemming said. “We designed Black in Natural History Museums to help us not just exist in these spaces, but to thrive.”

Events during the first year were focused on establishing connections. Scientists created videos in which they discussed their work; participants met up for a bioblitz hosted simultaneously in multiple cities; and seasoned researchers offered mentorship and advice. In 2022, the week’s content expanded to include workshops on where to find resources and the ins-and-outs of working in a museum.

This year’s Black in Natural History Museums Week is the broadest and most ambitious yet. One thing that hasn’t changed is the benefit that comes from interacting with people who have a shared perspective.

“People leave feeling validated,” said J.C. Buckner, the group’s vice president of communications and an assistant professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington. “It’s not always the easiest thing for them to communicate the challenges they face, or even sometimes to have someone understand the gravity of their accomplishments, given their positionality. It’s important to have these spaces where they don’t really have to explain the nuances inherent in that.”

Five people pose in front of the camera, arm in arm, with a building in the background
Black in Natural History Museums was created to foster an engaging and supportive community, where members could share experiences and celebrate their identity. From left: Aaron Woodruff, Nicole Fuller, Alnycea Blackwell, J.C. Buckner and Adania Flemming.

Photo courtesy of Adania Flemming

Now that they have a strong foundation in place, Flemming and her colleagues want to make sure the group is as inviting and accommodating as possible for everyone in their community.

A large percentage of people who work in museums are scientists who study, collect and care for specimens. But, said Flemming, just as important as the scientific discoveries are the educators and communicators who interpret them for a broad audience, the artists who bring them to life and the administrators who help make them possible.

“We have people in education and others with intersectional careers that combine natural and social sciences,” she said. “We also want people to know that even if they’re not in museums, this is a space they can use.”

In addition to the regular schedule of events this year, the group will also host a surprise in-person activity at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Specific details of the activity, which is free and open to the public, will be announced on Monday, Oct. 15.

“This is the one of the first things we’ve put together that is 100% in-person,” Buckner said. “Being virtual has helped us reach a global community, but it was also important and exciting for us to reach schoolkids, parents and people from the communities we grew up in.”

Learn more about the group and this year’s events by visiting the Black in Natural History Museums website.

Sources: Adania Flemming,;

Writer: Jerald Pinson,, 352-294-0452

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