Inclusion as Choice in Museums and Galleries

An display space at QUT Art Museum. People are looking at small pictures hanging on a white wall.Museums and galleries are starting to get the hang of being more inclusive so that more visitors can access their content. Co-designing with visitors rather than for them is an important step forward. Using imagined visitors or personas isn’t the same thing.

The outcome of Janice Rieger’s research on co-designing was that most participants wanted choice on how to engage with the work or exhibitions. She explains the research took a turn from inclusion as universal to inclusion as choice. For example, with audio descriptions, some wanted to sit and put headphones on to listen. Others wanted the audio descriptions to filter into the exhibition spaces. Some wanted to use their own devices.

Rieger’s article outlines her case study of Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection. The 12 co-designed outputs were:

 – 3 Audio Description Pods
 – Augmented Reality Simulation Goggles
 – Simulation video of a museum visitor who is blind
– Tactile Model based upon Catherine Parker’s painting, Present portal, 2017.
– Soundscape based upon Catherine Parker’s painting, Present portal, 2017.
– Touch/Descriptive Tours
– Sensitivity Staff Training
– Co-designed Public Programs
– Curriculum and Workshops for High School Groups
– Inclusive Exhibition Catalogue (with audio links and a plain language summary)

The full title of the article is, Moving Beyond Visitor and Usability Studies: Co-designing Inclusion in Museums and Galleries. It is open access from Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract: Museums and galleries have made efforts to be more inclusive over the last ten years, primarily through the emphasis on visitor studies, however they continue to have issues with making their environments and content accessible. This research addresses these issues and presents an alternative approach to creating inclusion in museum and galleries through co-design. By using co- design methods to actively engage people with differing abilities, this study creates new trajectories for inclusion that address the full spectrum of need and choice, for all users of the museum and gallery. Moving beyond visitor studies, the research presents new methods and strategies for museums and galleries when designing for inclusion. This paper presents key findings from case study research undertaken through the Vis-ability exhibition in Australia, to propose alternative ways of creating inclusion in museums and galleries, and how co- design can deepen our understanding of design for all.

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