Staff 1st.

Buy in matters. A genuine concern matters. Change matters.

The Smithsonian has made leaps and bounds in conservation, exhibitions, and setting the standards many museums aspire to, but even for the majority that is not enough, and rightfully so.

A public space is meant for the public. Not a cross-section, not a specific individual, but the public.

This is not achievable, however, without acknowledging accessibility of every kind.

From preparing visitors with cognitive disabilities to understand what experiences take place in your space, to making sure history lovers are accepted among art lovers, to facilitating ease of movement for visitors with physical disabilities, a public space should provide for and welcome everyone.

Missions, funding, and boards among other elements create barriers to these possibilities. So how can we break down those barriers, making accessibility more than just budget a line that is first to be redistributed? The process starts with the staff.

Staff, which includes paid, unpaid, intern, volunteer, and anyone who provides some sort of function to the museums. They care for the collection. They choose the objects. They make sure the doors are open for the public. Each staff members ensures the visitor enjoys the experience they deserve, which is fundamentally a visitor curated by the staff.

Now, imagine if that entire staff knew how to encourage and facilitate an experience for someone on the autism spectrum, someone that was blind, that spoke another language? And, in addition, genuinely believed each visitor deserved an encompassing and encouraging museum experience?

Creating a completely accessible place and experience starts with understanding, it starts with developing an institutional body language that says we want everyone to enjoy themselves, understand something new, and spark an interest that makes every visitor feel like they can and should revisit.

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