New Directions in Museum Accessibility

Violet Phillips

This article attempts to address and confront a number of issues within existing museum structures. While the Museum of Motherhood aspires to be a leader in championing women’s studies in a family-friendly environment, there is still much work to be done.

Gail Andersen is a museum consultant who’s been the director of the Mexican Museum, vice-president of Museum Management Consultations, chair of the department of museum studies at John F. Kennedy University, and is now a private museum consultant.

In 2002, she founded Gail Anderson & Associates to help museum leaders further transform their effects on community and global leadership. Her book, Mission Matters: Relevance and Museums in the 21st Century, addresses the ways in which museums can be social change agents.

While museums exist to preserve society, they can also show problems, like racism or sexism, as they exist. Showing the intersection between what has been and what could be, is part of what inspires people to create meaningful change. [3]

Art Works for Change Was founded in 2008, out of a desire for more meaningful change and also aims to use art to address social issues. It focuses on “human rights, social justice, gender equity, environmental stewardship and sustainability” And partners with local organizations. The organization’s philosophy sees artists as storytellers, to both reflect on past experiences and pave the way for better experiences in the future. [4]

As “writer, trainer and consultant” Anna Fathery wrote for MuseumNext:

“At their core, stories make us care. They connect us with people and places, even stimulating the release of a hormone usually expressed during intense bonding experiences, like childbirth, breastfeeding, and sex. This emotional connection is the reason stories are so powerful. As any advertiser knows, stories drive people to take action, whether that’s buying a product, gifting a donation, or making a difference in the world. From a marketing perspective, stories can help museums raise funds, encourage visits, and trigger sales. For instance, when the Tenement Museum in New York wrote about former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in a fundraising mailing it told a story about Roosevelt’s work in the local area. By connecting the teenage Roosevelt’s story with the Museum’s education programs, the call to action was obvious: donate money and you could inspire a new generation of young Eleanor Roosevelts” [5]

However, the storytelling experience currently curated in museums can be difficult for those with physical disabilities to access. People in wheelchairs usually use public transit to get around, and museums can be difficult to find from a bus stop or train station. Many museums also don’t have wheelchair ramps to help people get inside. It also can be hard for someone in a wheelchair to reach the resources provided, such as brochures.

Some museums are also lacking in Braille or audio descriptions that would help blind people access the exhibits, as well as sign language interpreters that would help deaf people access the exhibits. [6]

Also, as of 2015, 84% of museum staffers were white, and those who weren’t were often security guards or janitors. As of 2019, 85% of artists exhibited in major museums were white, and 87% were male. Historical museums rarely show the history of anyone who wasn’t a white man. Curators tend to agree that museums are important and should continue to be part of society, but should also expand to represent a more diverse society. [7]

Children are also less likely to enjoy museums, due to lack of engagement. Of course, many families would like to visit museums and bring their young children, and it could be a way for families to explore and learn together. Children are generally only willing to go to museums with a lot of interactive features. [8]

However, if done properly, museums can encourage children’s critical thinking skills, curiosity and creativity. [9] There are no good reasons why museums can’t make themselves enjoyable to children, who have a lot to learn, unless there are size constraints.

As Gail Andersen insists, museums are one of the most impactful ways to make sense of the past and future. Museums should be made accessible to as many people as possible, so that everyone can absorb the lessons about The past and future.

The current location of the MOM Art Annex in Florida requires additional funding so that it can implement special exhibits that are accessible to all, including those with disabilities, and expand our current space so that children may enjoy engaging, playful, and educational experiences (as we did during our time in New York City). Additionally, we pride ourselves on exhibits from multicultural perspectives. We welcome those of all races, nationalities, and ages to join us as board members, interns, and exhibitors.

Works cited

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Museum-Historical-Contemporary-Perspectives/dp/0759101701

http://linkedin.com/in/gail-anderson-6710575

[2] 1000 museums : museum quality fine art prints & custom framing. “How museums can lead the way for social change.” June 23, 2021. Online. Accessed February 10, 2021.https://www.1000museums.com/museum-activism/

[3] https://www.artworksforchange.org/our-story/

[4] museum next. “Why do stories matter to museums and how can museums become better storytellers?” July 7, 2019. Anna faherty. Accessed February 13, 2021. Online.

[5] museum next. “Making museums accessible to those with disabilities.” January 22, 2020. Goabaone montsho. Accessed February 13, 2021. Online.

[6] vox. “If museums want to diversify, they’ll have to change. A lot.” Constance Grady. November 18, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2021. Online.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/the-highlight/21542041/museums-diversity-guston-national-gallery-hiring

[7] “what do families with children need from a museum?” Kai-Lin wu. Accessed February 13, 2021. Online.

[8] world of illusions. “The educational benefits of taking kids to museums.” April 9, 2019. Accessed February 14, 2021. Online.

Published by MOM

The Motherhood Foundation is a certified nonprofit 501c3 connecting Women, Mothers and Families through Music, Art, Activism and Education for Cultural, Economic & Social awareness. By creating, producing and presenting visual, literary, educational, academic, performing arts exhibits that celebrate, nurture and support women with a special emphasis on mothers, and their activities, MFI pays tribute to mothers (Moms). The Foundation gives individuals and groups of Moms opportunities for artistic, academic, and cultural presentations they might not otherwise have; free of age, race and socio-economic barriers. MFI cares about, and acts upon the status of women, mothers and families, while addressing important issues, creating meaningful content, and providing compelling educational and community experiences.

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