Dr. Ariel Beaujot | University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, USA; Dr. Isabel Pedersen | University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada; Dr. Kristen Aspevig | Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada; Teresa Branch-Smith M.A. | Science North, Sudbury, Canada; Johanna Contreras | Royal Ontario Museum,Toronto, Canada

Breaking barriers of accessibility: temporal, spatial, visual and thought

Museums are a discursive space with a very clear mandate, to communicate and connect with all members of the public. More so, museums serve a social function. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) claims that a museum is an institution “in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for  the purposes of education, study and enjoyment”. This panel challenges the notion that museums are accessible, and using case studies and cross-disciplinary approaches, suggests practical and conceptual solutions to the problems of temporal, spatial and visual barriers experienced by patrons within the museum context.

Dr. Ariel Beaujot, a public historian at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, will present her work on an exhibit, “Ballade Blanche.”  This was a historical performance that took place in Pontlevoy, France, in 2010 and integrated history and art on the village streets. The exhibit was designed to enable participation, so that temporal and spatial barriers were transgressed by children and townspeople who became immersed in their town’s history through costume and role-playing.

Dr. Isabel Pedersen, Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media and Culture, and Dr. Kristen Aspevig, marketing and communications professional, will explore how video exhibition materials in museums can present barriers to persons who are Blind or have low vision. This discussion will extend previous research on accessible television and film into discursive museum spaces. We suggest that video materials must consider persons who are Blind or have low vision via inclusive narratives, metaphor or synesthetic tactics. As the world slides towards standardized media space in general, the museum context provides an opportunity to consider exclusionary processes and opportunities for increased inclusivity.

Teresa Branch-Smith M.A., Science Communicator and Exhibit Designer at Science North, will review how museums encourage curiosity with respect to science.  In particular she will discuss Science North`s new `Ripley`s Believe it or Not!` travelling exhibit to be unveiled later this year. Throughout its development, several considerations were made to create a universally inclusive experience by minimizing didactic limitations, and emphasizing constructivist learning opportunities. The case study will showcase the practical challenges designers face from a conceptual, financial and manufacturing perspective in attempt to connect with an international audience.

Our discussant and Chair will be Johanna Contreras, Access Program Manager at the Royal Ontario Museum.