Museums, exhibitions and universal design

One of the galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Museums and exhibitions.Museums and exhibitions help us understand the world we live in and give context to our lives. Making the content of museums available to everyone is an important part of the work of exhibition designers.

The Helen Hamlyn Centre conducted research to assist with this. Their findings and conclusions are reported in their articleUsing Design Thinking to Develop New Methods of Inclusive Exhibition Making

The project identified clear guidelines as a necessary factor in a universal approach to exhibition design. The key factor is encouraging designers to be creative and experimental with their designs. Making designers feel like they obliged to follow what they consider stifling requirements is counterproductive. It’s also about co-design and a dialogue between users, the institution and the design team. 

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Arts Access Australia also commissioned a report in 2011, Access and Audience Development in Australia: Museums and Galleries research project.

Inclusive Historic Houses

A white painted two storey home with white pillars all round supporting the verandah.Some good advice from a Masters dissertation on how to create inclusive Historic House stories and exhibits. The emphasis is on overcoming the practice of relating the dominant white male narrative. The dissertation discusses issues of diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic status and belief systems.

Seeking stories of forgotten or overlooked people who occupied the house is one way to address the prevailing white male narrative. Gaston advises:

    • Include diverse perspectives and narratives
    • Connect the past to the present
    • Build with shared authority
    • Make the human connection 

The title of the dissertation is, If These Walls Could Talk: Best Practices for Storytelling in Historic House Museums, by Hannah M Gaston. 

Museum has integrated universal design

A distant aerial view of the huge arch and the park and landscapingIntegrating universal design was a priority in the redesigning of the Gateway Arch Museum in St Louis. A gently sloping plaza, architecturally integrated ramps, and engaging exhibitions. An article in the St Louis online news gives a good run-down of the features.

The universal design concepts allow people to interact with exhibits rather than just look at them. The touchable exhibits are a great success, and there are other enhancements for people with disability. The arch and the park are now easier to access by foot or bike as well. The Archinet website features a brief overview by the architects, and pictures of the museum. The timelapse video of the construction is interesting because of the landscaping of the parkland around it. 


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