Cultural Fiesta Initiatives for Museums

Museums should be for everyone. Working towards cultural accessibility

Update 7th of September 2021

Museums play an important role in every society. Certainly, they are sometimes called the grandmothers of nations. They tell us different stories. They help us understand. The museum is a perfect place in which you can get answers to eternal questions: HOW & WHY. However, is this info accessible to everyone? Today we will try to answer this question.

Feeling welcomed. A neutrality issue

It is common for museums to claim neutrality. However, is it the approach cultural institutions should engage in? Does actual neutrality exist? This article by Lindsey Steward-Goldber will make you reflect about the topic. This other by Sema Rao also gives a really interesting approach to the matter! Check them out.

In general, Cultural Fiesta’s point of view to the matter of neutrality can be summarized with this famous quote:

Desmund Tutu's quote edit by Cultural Fiesta
Desmund Tutu’s quote edit by Cultural Fiesta

The city’s museums should present themselves as safe-spaces for every member of the community. Notably, regardless of your age, race, sexuality, class, gender or capability. Learning and enjoying culture should be a universal right.

Being able. The physical accessibility issue

Firstly, when thinking of accessibility, what often comes to one’s mind is the fact that buildings itself might not be accessible for everyone. Baia Mare’s museums are not, as you can see in the following image. The red signs pinpoint the more inaccessible buildings and areas of the city:

Accesibility map of the city by (Dis)Able 2 Act, Team for Youth
Baia Mare’s accessibility map by (Dis)Able 2 Act, Team for Youth

Besides the wheelchair users, people with different disabilities have no options when visiting the museums. There are not adapted tours to their needs. An alluring way to do it could be promoting the use of different senses when visiting the museum. Some examples we have gathered are the following.

Hearing sense

Audio-descriptions are a somehow easy resource to make. Only a microphone and recorder as well as a tool to reproduce the audio later is needed for its production. Just look at this example by the UK’s association Vocal Eyes. It is really interesting:

They also explain in detail how to make an accessible and proper audio-description in their webside. Check it out clicking here!

Touch

As a contrapoint, some might say that audio-descriptions are not enough. A resource that might help solve this are tactile-tours. Here you have some inspiration of what is being done in the British Museum:

When organizing a tactile tour, we have to consider the artpieces. People should not touch some plastic art pieces such as paintings without a braille book, yet historical pieces do not need any extra resources, just some gloves. It is a matter of selecting the appropriate exhibition.

An immersive experience

Some other museums have taken a more general approach. For instace, they have developed sensory suitcases. In them different small resourses are placed.  Disabled people can choose and use them as they consider in their visit to the museum. This, as well as some other ideas, are gathered in this compelling video:

As the description of the last video says, providing access to disabled audiences means so much more than just ensuring they can get into the building.

It is the approach that matters!

To sum up, it is important to highlight that a change in the physical aspect of the museums should be ONLY the first step in the path towards accessibility. Museums should be examples of inclusion and non-discrimination, concepts that do not get along with neutrality.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's quote edit by Cultural Fiesta
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quote edit by Cultural Fiesta

Thanks for reading!

By Elvi

European Union funds Cultural Fiesta, a Team for Youth’s project. It is part of the European Solidarity Corps.