San Diego Museum Changes Its Name to Promote Inclusivity and Decolonization

A century-old anthropology museum in San Diego unveiled its new name on Sunday.

The institution, formerly known as the Museum of Man, is now officially called the Museum of Us. In one of several announcements about the switch, executives said the museum's updated identity better represents "our work toward equity, inclusion, and decolonization."

The museum adopted its previous moniker in 1942. At the time, "museum of man" aimed to reflect the establishment's focus on anthropology, a field of study that broadly encompasses scientific and cultural research pursuits related to human behavior.

Conversations about the ways in which its use of "man" was problematic began to circulate almost three decades ago, after community members noted its gendered, colonial implications.

"Not only did the Museum's old name support patriarchal systems, but it represented a colonial past that perpetuated racist narratives and harmed Indigenous communities," the museum said in a statement shared to its website on Sunday. "Today, we are addressing our colonial legacy in a number of ways, including actively listening to the voices of San Diego community members, Indigenous Peoples nationally, and our national and international visitors."

Following more than two years of discussions among stakeholders and members of the public, the museum said its trustee board officially approved the name change at the end of June. Its former website URL now redirects users to a new one consistent with the update. A pop-up message introducing visitors to the switch appears when loading the home page.

"It's us! Your new museum," the message reads. "Formerly known as the Sn Diego Museum of Man, we have begun the process of changing our name to better reflect our commitment to inclusivity."

Newsweek reached out to the Museum of Us for additional comments, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

Museum of Us, San Diego
The Museum of Us, formerly called the Museum of Man, displays a message thanking health care workers near the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak on April 16. The museum unveiled its new name in an announcement issued on Sunday. Daniel Knighton/Getty

The museum board's decision to move away from a name reminiscent of the United States', and California's, history of colonization came amid a national movement to effect similar changes elsewhere. Demonstrations against systemic racism and police abuse that took place after George Floyd's death sparked widespread efforts to remove statues, and rename public spaces, with ties to the Confederacy.

Protesters and lawmakers have faced pushback against their initiatives, with some leaders, like President Donald Trump, arguing for the preservation of memorials linked to the Confederacy. Still, numerous symbols were taken down nationwide over the past two months. Local leaders in Virginia celebrated the removal of Confederate memorials from the state's capitol last week, and polls conducted around the same time showed most Americans support efforts to do so across the country.