This is a recorded session from the 2023 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo. In 2019, the Intrepid Museum and New York University Ability Project brought together staff of historic sites, disability advocates, and experts in historic preservation and museum accessibility to address how to remove barriers to multisensory interpretation. Presenters representing each of these groups will share key takeaways from the project, available in a digital toolkit, and their perspectives on this work.
Download a copy of the Making History Accessible Toolkit.
All right, so hello everyone. Thank you for sticking around for the last full day of the conference. We appreciate you being here. My name is Charlotte Martin and welcome to Making History Accessible Toolkit for Multisensory interpretation. We are very grateful to the support of IMLS for making this project possible, and we look forward to sharing this work. Just to give you a little overview, the toolkit that we’ll be discussing is available at intrepidmuseum.org slash access. The link that’s on display. There, you’ll find both a PDF version and a Word document version as well. And it is also linked in the app as one of the handouts for the session. So you can always refer to it there. Just to give you a little bit of an overview. This is our agenda for today. We’ll start with panelist introductions. We’ll just kind of briefly state who we are, where we’re from, and just a brief description of ourselves.
We’ll go over some background of the project overview, and then we’ll hear from one of our advisors on the project. We’ll hear a case study from one of the historic sites that participated, and then we’ll share some of the key findings and recommendations. We’ll have some time then for some brainstorming for your own site, or if you’re not at a site, you can think a little bit more abstractly or support someone else at your table as well. And we do encourage you to move up if you’d like, because we will have some things to pass around a little bit later in the session as well. And then we’ll have time at the end for Q and A, and then you can go off and have lunch and enjoy this beautiful day in Denver. All right, so we’ll start off with just some introductions. Again, my name is Charlotte Martin. I’m the Director of Access Initiatives at the Intrepid Museum. I use she/her pronouns, and I am a short white woman with light skin, medium length dark blonde hair, and I’m wearing a long black dress today. I’ll pass it over to Amy.
Hello, my name is Amy Hurst. So I’m faculty at NYU, also New York University, both in the occupational therapy department and also in the Technology, Culture, and Society department. And I direct a thing called the Ability Project that you’ll hear a little bit more about. I use she/her pronouns. I am a white woman with brown hair, glasses. I’m a New Yorker, so I’m always wearing all black and combat boots, but today I am wearing a floral mask to celebrate Spring.
Hello, I’m Cheryl Fogle-Hatch. I’m an accessibility consultant. I founded MuseumSenses, as in the five senses. I blog there and do a lot of other things and share resources. I’m a white woman with the shoulder-length, dark hair, wearing a blue and white suit today.
Hi, I’m Sara Lowenburg. I am the director of education at the Louisiana State Museum. I’m based in New Orleans. I am also a white woman with brown hair, half back, and I’m wearing a perfectly coordinated, I’m very proud, dress with green squiggles and green squiggly earrings.
All right, thank you. So once again, if you’re just joining us, feel free. There are some seats in the front of the room, so you’re welcome to come on up. And like I said, if you’re at the front of the room, you’ll have a chance to explore some of our sensory items a little bit later. All right, so just to give a little bit of background on the project, we’ll talk a little bit about why we decided to embark on this project. So again, I’m from the Intrepid Museum, which is based on a former aircraft carrier in New York City. So we are a historic site. The ship served from 1943 until 1974, but we also have a Cold War submarine, a British Airways Concord, the space shuttle Enterprise, over 25 aircraft, thousands of objects and oral histories. And our mission is to advance the understanding of the intersection of history and innovation in order to honor our heroes, educate the public, and inspire future generations.
Now, when Intrepid was constructed in the early 1940s, it had a very specific mission. It was going to fight in World War II. It was going to head out to the Pacific and join the war out there. So when it was built, accessibility was not on the Navy’s mind. That was not what they were considering when they were building this very quickly. But today, we are a museum. We’ve been one since 1982, and we recognize that in order to meet our mission today, we need to be accessible. We need to be inclusive and welcoming to a wide variety of visitors and make sure that they can actually experience the stories that we have to share and bring their own perspectives into this space. And this is a challenge. It’s a challenge for our site, but it’s also a challenge for the many, many historic sites all around the country.
25% of adults in the United States have a disability, identify as having a disability. Those could be sensory disabilities involving sight, vision, hearing, physical disabilities, learning, developmental, intellectual disabilities, and a wide range kind of on that spectrum. People may become disabled at any point in their lives, and people may not have a disability themselves, but are often part of a family group or a class with people with disabilities. According to surveys, fewer than 7% of adults with disabilities are visiting museums. And there’s a wide variety of reasons for that. But we do need to be proactive in making sure that we’re not putting up unnecessary barriers and that we’re proactively removing barriers and making sure that we are welcoming spaces. As I mentioned, there are many historic houses and sites across the country. In fact, that is the largest proportion of museums at 45% of all museums in the United States.
So this is the large number of organizations, but historic sites have this incredible challenge, incredible prerogative of balancing interpretation with preservation, right? We’re trying to make sure that our spaces are safe, are there to be experienced for future generations, but we need to interpret those. And part of that is making sure that people can actually access those stories and share those perspectives. But of course, many historic sites run on very small budgets with small staff, if any staff. Just by a show of hands, how many people currently are working or recently worked at a historic site or historic house museum or something like that? Okay, so it looks like a large portion. So most people in the room are doing that. So, wonderful, we’re happy to have you. But we also hope that and expect that the lessons that we’ve learned through this project will apply to other museums as well, zoos, gardens, and the wide range of cultural organizations represented here.
But we also know one of the many values of historic sites and houses and museums is that they are immersive. They already have these great sensory opportunities within them, but there are also many barriers that we’ll go through. And we know that content should be interpreted in multisensory ways to invite many different types of people to participate. But developing multisensory interpretation can be challenging, especially if you don’t have experience with that. If you have limited budgets and staff, it can be a little overwhelming to kind of know where to start or how to start. And so that’s what we wanted to address with this project when we kind of submitted this proposal back in 2018.
And the goals of the toolkit are for users to understand accessible interpretation guidelines, to learn accessible design processes, no matter the size, space, or resource of your historic house or site, and to leverage multisensory experiences to increase access in these environments. But part of this though is that we know that sites don’t have to do this alone. And that’s something that we really hope that people take from this. This was a big team effort and something that we intentionally built into the project from the beginning. So very early on, while we were putting together this proposal and idea, we were having conversations with New York University’s Ability Project. And Amy will talk more about their role in this project, but this was an opportunity to work with a program at a local university that brings together engineering students, design students, occupational therapy students, disability studies students and professionals to help advise this work and develop some of this prototypes.
Once we also brought on as advisors Access Smithsonian, Beth Ziebarth and Ashley Grady, as well as colleagues from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. So having kind of the museum accessibility side represented as well as the kind of umbrella organization for many historic sites. Once we received the funding in fall 2019, we started recruiting the participants. So that included seven historic sites and house museums across the country. We opened up a call for historic houses and sites and organizations to apply to participate in the program. We also put out a call for disability advocates, mostly local or people who would be able to travel here, to the Intrepid Museum, trying to represent a wide range of disability and lived experience and expertise. I will note that all advocates were paid a stipend for their contributions, for their effort, and all of the sites received funds to cover travel costs and help offset some exhibit development costs.
All right, so in December of 2019, we had our first convening. And so this convening brought together our historic sites. So that included a sprawling Revolutionary War fort with rugged terrain all around it, Fort Ticonderoga. It brought together a historic schoolhouse on an island, basically on its own, at Bainbridge Island Museum. We had historic houses like Macculloch Hall, we had Louisiana State Museum, which has several historic houses around it, as well as a few other sites as well. So trying to represent the range of historic sites and museums, even a farm, things like that. So we came together, we have a photo from that first convening, which with a big screen that says Welcome and about 20 of the participants who are there, who are visible here, sitting around round tables and chairs or wheelchairs with a screen that has CART captioning on display as well.
And in this, this was an opportunity to share challenges and opportunities, and both Cheryl and Sara will talk about some of the things that they brought to that conversation. And so we talked about kind of experiences that both sides had. We talked about some of the constraints that we would have on the project, making clear some of the challenges around budgets and internal expertise as well as experiences that some of the disability advocates had in trying to visit these sites and some of the limitations and barriers that they faced in that. We realized that we had to take more time than we expected to actually clarify interpretation and what we meant by that. This was about storytelling, about not just the basics of ADA guidelines for access into a space, but actually how do we tell those stories? How do we share those stories? How do we engage visitors?
And like I said, we addressed some of those constraints. And through these conversations over several days, we came up with some of the main challenges that we would address through the project. And so that included things that are behind glass, for preservation reasons that are kept behind glass or behind a barrier to keep the objects or the space and the visitors safe. We talked about places that people can’t go. And so those might be spaces that certain people can’t go because of steps or narrow entryways and things like that, or in many cases, spaces that no one can go.
So at the Intrepid Museum, for example, we have our engine room and people ask about it all the time, but it’s just not a space that we’re ever going to be open to the public for a number of reasons. But it is a story we want to bring out. And then we also talked about over and under simulating environments. And so overstimulating environments, so for example, we had several of our advocates with autism who spoke about finding spaces overwhelming because of the way the sound reverberates or there’s smells and things like that. Versus under stimulating environments, places that you can’t touch anything, that you can’t get kind of this other sensory interaction. And so trying to come up with ways of addressing both of those.
And so the Intrepid Museum Exhibits team, because the Intrepid Museum team participating in this included our exhibits fabrication and design team, as well as our access team represented by me, education, evaluation, and our curatorial and collections teams. But the Intrepid Museum’s exhibits team and NYU Ability Project students met with historic sites and disability advocates to develop their initial pilot approaches. This was taking place in the spring semester of 2020. It was going great, but it was disrupted pretty early on because of the pandemic closures. The course did continue, but they weren’t able to do the extent of prototyping and development as we had initially hoped. Fortunately, we were able to get an extension on the grant so that we could still complete that project in the following year.
And we used that time for the Intrepid Museum, worked with the Ability Project and some of their students to develop a pilot bring your own accessible device mobile guide for the museum, which we’ve also written about, to provide a template for other sites that they could use as well. Using very simple, really basic WordPress templates and accessible text that people could then adjust with their own devices, their own accessibility settings. But we were going to continue the project. Of course, during this time, unfortunately, there was some turnover. One of the sites had to pull out, and then there was some staff turnover at some of these sites, although most people did stay on. And so I’m going to let Amy take over and talk a little bit about the relationship and the role of the NYU ability project in this, because this phase of the project was very involved with their course. So Amy?
Hello. Hi, I’m Amy again, and I’m going to stay seated because now that I have my own microphone, I feel very free and very close to all of you as an audience. So, oh, I have a clicker. Cool. So I’m the director of a thing that’s called The Ability Project at NYU. I don’t have a slide that describes it, but I can just describe it kind of briefly. So we are an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on pretty much anything that falls under the umbrella of disability and technology. We collaborate with our Center for Disability Studies who do slightly different work, but we’re very good friends with them. So NYU is really a great place with a lot of different work that’s happening around accessibility and disability. So we focus on all things disability and technology, and we collaborate across three different schools, which is very exciting and very complicated.
One is the Steinhardt School that has occupational therapy department and also School of Education is there. We’re also in the Tandem School of Engineering where I have an appointment in Technology, Culture, and Society in their design and media program, and then also in the Tisch School for Arts, where we collaborate with the interactive telecommunications program. But of course we collaborate with many other folks. But kind of our core is bringing people who understand design, art, and human development together to collaborate on projects. And we do this through research projects such as this one. We also do it through our teaching, and we also do a lot of different forms of community engagement. One thing that’s unique about all of our classes, is we really focus on experiential learning. Field trips, either virtual or in person, guest lecturers, inviting community members to participate in our class throughout the semester, beyond just a single guest lecture.
We often partner with community organizations on semester long projects. We do a lot of service learning and participatory design, and we have links throughout if you want to hear more about the ability project. But right now, I’m going to tell you about the amazing opportunities of partnering with a university. And I think actually for us, it was the amazing opportunity to partner with museums and museum experts. At universities, we’re kind of mini cities, we have a little bit of everything, or depending on the institution, maybe a lot of some of those things. And we have a lot of different kinds of tools and a lot of different knowledge. We don’t usually have a lot of money, but we have a lot of cool stuff and a lot of energy, and a lot of time, I wrote on the slide that we even have an unlimited supply of students who need or want to learn skills that are going to be part of their portfolio and kind of help them get to where they want to be.
And that’s a little bit of a joke, but it’s also very true. We have kind of an unlimited supply of undergraduates, graduates, masters, PhD students who need things to do, who really, and a lot of what they want to do is have something that’s meaningful, that has something that can serve as a portfolio piece to get them that next job. So I have a list of some of the skills that I think were really leveraged in this project. Of course, there are many other skills, tools, and resources at universities to kind of plant that seed. One of the big ones that stood out was digital fabrication. I mean, we were lucky enough to work with the Intrepid that has their own fabrication shop, but maker spaces have become a big thing. And to be honest, I study maker spaces, so I can say this, not a lot of useful things come out of maker spaces.
So the opportunity to actually make a thing that people will see, that will be on display, that will have value that isn’t just your latest Marvel toy is really exciting to people. And the universities have the tools and they already have the training. They’re just really missing a lot of applications. Some other things that are very relevant would be graphic design. Again, when you’re working with the art schools or design schools, there’s a lot of knowledge and experience and real hunger to have real world projects in that domain. Web or interface design certainly was really useful in the bring your own accessible device project. Students already knew how to use WordPress, knew a little bit about accessibility, and they were hungry and ready to go for that. Audio, video recording, AR and VR technology, just like maker spaces, I kind of feel that some of these AR spaces that can capture movement or just capture environments are just popping up at every university.
And again, a little bit of a question of what are we going to do now that we have that technology, which I think is a huge opportunity. And then also a lot of students who are really hungry and interested to learn how to evaluate technology or how to evaluate experiences. You might see that in the social sciences and you might also see that more in the design world. So to talk a little bit about the specific engagement that we did on this project. So as I said, students really, and faculty, we really, really want to have real world problem solving happen in the classroom and focus on experiential learning. And so we created a course on accessible interpretation as part of this grant. This class did not exist before. It now exists. Students love it. We teach it every spring. We’ve taught it, oh my God, four times already.
I can’t believe it. And so much of the success is due to the people at this table who very kindly donate their time to support our students and give them feedback. So I put a couple of bullets to give you a taste of what happens in this class. On the Ability Project website, you can see the full syllabus, all of the past student projects. We do everything very public and open with the hope that other people will engage and maybe make versions of this themselves or give us feedback or volunteer to help us in a future semester. So there are two homework assignments that we do before we put them into projects. I kind of think of these as skill checks. The first one is kind of a communications and a digital skill check where we have them do virtual or maybe if conditions are good, a physical audit of some museum or historical site where they go and they kind of see, figure out what are the things that they’re interested in and what things are working for them, people who are not like them.
We go through a bunch of different prompts to get them kind of to think about the audit of, again, of those digital or physical experiences. And then write a report about it. That’s the communications check. The other one is we have them actually do a task where they’re building something. So after they’ve done this audit, we have them build a tactile graphic or a touch object of something that is part of that museum or that historical site. This is really just to get a sense of who’s excited to build stuff with their hands or for people who’ve never done this to realize that maybe they don’t want to do more of that. Also kind of a check to see what skills they have. Because this class is open to all, like I said, we have occupational therapists, we have artists, we have designers, we have students from rehab science, we have students coming from all over, and we never know what they’re going to want to do.
So through these two assignments, we kind of give them a flavor of the kind of work that will be done throughout the semester and help them kind of figure out if they want to be doing more communications, auditing sort of work, providing resources and materials or if they want to be building stuff. And then we divide them into small project teams to then work on these semester long projects. There are a couple of rules. Each team must have a community partner or a domain expert who can then be there to guide the students. So this is then when I take a role as an instructor where I’m just kind of coordinating things and I’m really letting the community partners really direct and steer the projects. Ideally, the projects have also come from the community partners or the local museums who want to have something to explore.
The next rule is that these teams meet regularly. I leave that up to the community partner to define what regularity means. But I do feel and have seen enough of a pattern. The more people meet with students, the more they get out of the students. So weekly is best, but also figuring out what are those channels of communication. Some teams have Zoom meetings, some have text threads or what WhatsApp channels, chats or whatever that the kids are doing these days. It’s a wide variety of ways that they stay in touch. And then they have midterm and final presentations where they have to publish their work or share it with everybody. And in that we have very high accessibility standards where there has to be captions, there has to be a transcript. They have to provide all of the resources that they show visually that are accessible to a screener.
They have to describe all of their images and so on to get them learning a little bit about digital accessibility. And then the rest of the semester, we interweave whatever skills we think are relevant. If we have a lot of tactile graphics projects, we’ll really dive deep into how does embossing work? How does swell form work? What are the different kinds of technologies? What are some of the standards for what the shape or the weight of those should be? Maybe more skills around fabrication, maybe more things just learning about the human body. If we have more designers and artists rather than clinicians, we might talk more about some of the conditions that people have. Or we’ll bring in guest speakers who have lived experience with different forms of disability that are relevant to the projects. And then the last thing that I wanted to say about the structure of this class is it’s designed in such a way that students can then continue these projects at the end of the semester.
They start as group projects, but we’ve had many students who’ve actually continued it as an independent study, as a thesis or a capstone project, which then can really give those mentors kind of that longer term opportunity to collaborate with someone and finish the work because things don’t always get finished in the course of a semester. All right. My last slide is giving you a taste of some of the projects that have come out of this class. On the slide, I have a list of projects that I’ll go through. And then on the right-hand side, there’s a picture of some stacked cardboard that was laser cut that is from a painting of George Washington. I had a student that we spent months looking at this one painting of George Washington and comparing it to a younger version of George Washington. And we were really focusing on how can we make these paintings tactilely interesting and explored lots of different materials, thinking about affordability, thinking about durability, thinking about sustainability.
If you’re interested, there’s a lot of details on that website. So some of the projects, to give you a flavor, we’ve had students who’ve actually created or kind of kickstarted an accessibility visitor guide that could be digital or for the physical space, developing guidelines for a specific gallery, creating description or templates to then have create visual descriptions for a gallery, creating tactile graphics or touch objects as kind of this images illustrating one of those examples, creating audio experiences or immersive experiences and a lot more. So that’s all I have.
All right. Well, thank you Amy. And just to say that the continuation of the class has been really great for us too because one of the students has actually created these amazing tactile versions of crew patches that we have at the museum using a mechanical embroiderer, which has been amazing. So it’s a gift that keeps on giving. But just to continue with our process here, after this semester long course, we then in August of 2021 put up our prototype exhibition called Making History Accessible. This was in kind of the entry area of the museum. We have a photo here of actually some of the participants in the project going through the exhibit when it was installed. And in this exhibit we installed some of the student and Intrepid museum prototypes. So that included a version of the tactile cardboard version of that George Washington painting that Amy mentioned that it had some later iterations that he developed where he coated it with resin and stuff to keep it protected.
So you could really feel a difference between young George Washington and older George Washington as depicted in paintings. We also had ways of incorporating smell as way of kind of unleashing new stories that a site hadn’t been able to before. We also had various forms of incorporating audio description into an exhibit, as well as some other ways of handling objects in a safe manner and that Sarah will talk more about as well. And in this process, we had the exhibit up for several months. We had surveys available for visitors to complete, but we also specifically invited user experts to come and actually try out the exhibit. So that meant reaching out beyond kind of our core group of advisors, asking them to reach out to some of their peers and their networks to bring in other disabled user experts into the museum, reaching out to local advocacy organizations and others.
And we actually list some suggestions in the toolkit of how to identify some organizations in your communities to actually come in. And we had them go through the exhibit. We did observations as they went through the exhibit. And then we did interviews with them afterward as well. And with that, they received tickets to come back to the museum as well. We also, like I said, had surveys out available for all visitors to complete. We compiled that feedback and invited back our partners, our core working group to come and see the exhibit. This was a hybrid meeting, so we had many did actually come, but some joined us over Zoom, some of the advocates who hadn’t been able to visit in person at did at that point. And the historic sites were able to see how the prototypes that they helped inform actually worked in our space.
We then sent the historic sites, selected their prototypes that they would actually try out in their spaces, and we did give them a little bit of seed funding for that, but it was up to them to identify their vendors if they were going to work with a vendor in their community. And that could be a private company, a university, a maker space, and then to actually install the prototype or implement it if it was something digital, and then invite user expert feedback to then report back for this project. And so on this screen, we have a few examples. We have a 3D printed full model of Eastern State Penitentiary that was developed as part of the project. And that went through several iterations to figure out the amount of detail to include, the correct scale to make it, because there’s so much detail, but you want to make sure it’s meaningful.
So trying to avoid that crowding. And so that went through several phases. We have from Bainbridge Island Museum, we have scent jars that were installed in that site that someone could open the jar and kind of opt into that experience based on how we had tested out at the museum. And then we have a screenshot of a web guide that Fort Ticonderoga developed that includes an image of a cannon they have on display there, as well as text and audio for each of the elements that they were exploring there. Fort Ticonderoga, a very challenging site because it’s very expansive. And so before we get to those key findings, I’m going to invite Cheryl and then Sara to share their own perspectives on the project.
All right, perfect. So I had the privilege of being one of the advisors to this project. I do museum accessibility and consulting, and it was really a privilege to get into these conversations early on in design. Historic sites have great potential and they do also have some drawbacks. They’re immersive in the sense that if you’re on an aircraft carrier, you’re walking through the fire doors, down the stairs. The submarine that the Intrepid has got, the Growler, that’s… Amazingly you’re inside of it’s immersive. But in historic houses, you’re also kind of going into it. There’s different atmospheres. I find modern museum buildings kind of sterile, modern galleries are kind of large and open and I don’t really have a sense from one gallery to the next of what’s there, unless someone’s describing, but that’s another kettle of fish.
Historic sites, the houses and things like that, the spaces tend to be smaller, a bit more irregular in flooring and steps and walls and spaces and things that kind of give an immersive sense as you go through. But those very same features that are immersive to me can be challenging to those who find the stairs a barrier, for example. Wheelchair users would not have the same experience as I would. And then for me, the historic sites, sometimes I come into a space and it’s great, and then there’s a rope and a stanchion and it’s like, all right, I’ve got to stand back here and you guys are viewing the room. And if I’m lucky, somebody’s describing the room to me, but I’m outside the room or you guys get to look through the glass cases and if I’m lucky, someone’s describing it to me, but if not. So I get some of the immersive and then stops.
And so that’s a big thing that we talked about. That’s the challenge. Things behind glass, that’s really kind of where they got from. And so this project was good in that we got to give our input early. So in that early meeting we had in 2019, the historic site representatives were prompted to describe the site, and we said accurately, and describe what the needs are and what the improvements are. And be honest, because likely most of us can guess what challenges are, but maybe not. And so to get that stated and as a statement of informational. Here, I’ll shout out to Charlotte’s team because we did a tour and I was in the Intrepid doing the tour of the submarine Growler. And the guide was very descriptive, here’s the stairs up, here’s the stairs down. And it was informational. She figured once she gave me the information I’d navigate, it was very calm.
Sometimes people see me coming into a museum with a white cane and freak out if there’s a step. And no, the cane just finds the space in front of me. I’ll find it will be fine. But Charlotte did a nice job with her team on explaining the information and letting us all sort it out. And it was a real pleasant tour. But moving through, so we talked in our convening, we did brainstorming and including the disability advocates in the historic sites, we got a chance to talk about, well, these are ideas we have. And the more people you have in the group, the more challenges you talk about openly, the more range of ideas are going to come up and possible solutions.
The next key point is that we had, coming into the project early, we had time enough to get to know each other as colleagues. If, and this happens in other cases, other projects, they want someone to come in at the end and tell them what they should do and it’s too rushed. But coming in at the beginning, we get to know each other as colleagues and it opens up opportunities for collaboration. I do serve as a mentor for one of Amy’s classes. It’s a joy. I get really cool touch objects in the mail and then I go on Zoom and give student feedback.
And that’s a lot of fun, the patches and some other things. And that is a joy for that. There’s also some other collaborations that came out of the Intrepid. If you could switch the Macculloch Hall slide. Yeah, perfect. Macculloch Hall is a site in New Jersey. It’s a house and garden in Morristown, Jersey. It’s a small town. And we had gotten to know each other during the convening. And then I got a phone call from the director who said, I’m applying for these other grants to do a touch tour. Are you interested? Yes. So we talked and then I sent her some information to be included in the state grant that she got from the New Jersey Historic Commission, I believe. So I went up there and we talked, we toured the house and we selected objects for their Please Touch tour. So we talked about things that could come from the museum collection as actual objects to be touched and things that had to be replicated.
So for activities, this was their idea and process and I thought it was really cool. Select ideas for objects that symbolize each room. So there’s an iron safe and key in the office, China vases in the dining hall, dining room, and also some other things that the servants used, the iron keys and the clothes iron and a bunch of other things in the back hallway. So each room had a couple of objects and we went through. The first time I was there, we selected the objects and we brainstormed a few more objects than what they originally planning to select, which was fun. We were talking about, I connected them with a local maker space because one of the things I do, I follow accessibility in science and art and other things. And so I tend to know people in different areas and if I can make a connection, I will.
So I connected them with a local maker space in one of their county public libraries. And so he came there and we talked about maybe having him replicate some of the features for some of these really elaborately carved furniture and things like that. We also talked about features of the building that were tactile. There are decorations carved into the mantle over the fireplace, and they selected one and I went over to make sure I could comfortably find it and touch it. And here’s where the information, provide information as you’re describing something, because the mantle stuck out over the drawing. So it was, be careful, you’re going to lean in to touch the drawing, but there’s a pointed mantle and that’s information, it’s good information to have.
We also had been talking about models. There’s a painting of a canal barge because one of the ways the owner and builder of that historic house made money on the barge canal. And so they put a model in of a canal boat so that you could touch the iron railings and touch the boat, and it’s a model of the boat in the painting. And this touch tour you can go up, they are available as a mobile guide. They used our template for the mobile guide, and it’s also available as an audio tour to call. And there’s codes for the stops. They used one of their state grants to work through Guide by Sell and get the audio tour.
And then yeah, we did make some changes to some of the stops, the audio tour, there’s an outside stop in the garden set of tours and there’s an inside tour for the house. And on the garden there’s places where the house was a boys school for a bit, and there are places where the boys had carved graffiti into the brick outside on the porch. And the first one that they selected to have as a stop was behind a bush. So we walked over, I walked through going through the stops, but I had a hard time reaching over the bush to touch that graffiti. So we had to choose another stop. And they had others. They had another one that was easier to touch, and we made that change in one minute once I was standing in front of it and I couldn’t reach over the bush.
And then the other aspects of that touch tour are two 3D photos, and they were installed after my visit just because of scheduling and other things didn’t line up, so I haven’t gone to touch them yet. I’ve got to get back up there to do that. But these are photos that are tactile representatives of artwork that are displayed in the house. The Thomas Nast cartoon is the picture on the screen is the Merry Old Santa Claus, and it’s rendered as a tactile photograph and the lines and it’s displayed on the easel there. So that’s what I have for now.
Hi, I am Sara Lowenburg again. I am the director of education at the Louisiana State Museum. Excited to share a little bit more about our case study as one of the historic sites that had the real privilege of participating in this project. So the Louisiana State Museum is a state run system of nine historic sites and museums across Louisiana, five of which are in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Including two historic houses, Madam John’s legacy. And the focus of this project, the 1850 House. The 1850 House is a townhouse located on Jackson Square in the center of the French Quarter, and as its name might suggest, was built between 1849 and 1850 as a part of the redesign of the square. This slide shows a slice of the block long building that the 1850 house is a part of. And the 1850 House itself is outlined with a black box.
So it’s a three-story red brick building with shops on the bottom floor opening out to the square and ornate ironwork lining the balconies of the top two stories. Today it houses our main museum gift shop on the first floor and the historic spaces on the top two floors. So the 1850 House was the home and or workplace to wealthy New Orleanians, enslaved people, and Irish servants. Today period rooms showcase the lifestyle of families who lived there in the 1850s. And with the exception of the kitchen, the historic spaces including the parlor, the dining room and bedrooms are only accessible via stairs on the second and third floors. And all of the historic spaces are only viewable behind barricades, which are not easily removed. We have to call the maintenance department simply to move the barricade. So on this slide, the ornate parlor is pictured on the right.
There’s heavily draped floor to ceiling windows looking out over Jackson Square, and the room includes beautiful antique sitting furniture along with the piano and harp, gold framed paintings on the walls, and a large fireplace. And on the left is the courtyard with the dependencies or back buildings pictured on the right and the back. This includes the kitchen in the far back on the first floor. And if you look squint at this picture, there are two visitors that are peeking through to the kitchen in the very back of the image. The living space and the dependencies above is for the enslaved people and servants. And today visitors start and end their tour in this courtyard, and it also serves as a starting place for our twice a day popular walking tours of the French quarters. So it’s also the most heavily trafficked area of the house.
As the only historic space on the first floor directly off the courtyard and a particularly rich content area, in my opinion, the kitchen provides a unique opportunity for deeper engagement with more visitors. The bare brick floors and plain walls or signs that compared to the living spaces above, this was a place of grueling work serving the wealthy family who lived in the main house. The left image on this slide showcases the full kitchen, which is viewable behind a barricade. It includes a large table, which is mostly out of view on the right with fake food and cooking materials, shelves lining the walls with various bottles and bowls, and a large cast iron stove in the back installed in front of the fireplace. And this stove, which is pictured more closely on the right, was manufactured in 1850, around the same time as the building, though in New York. And stoves at that time were starting to become more common as their fuel efficiency gave them a clear advantage over open hearth cooking.
This stove stands about six feet tall with ornate cast iron finishings and doors inspired by the gothic revival movement. And the cooking surface is very low compared to today’s stove, standing about two feet off the ground, which made it easier to lift and move heavy cast iron pots. And today there’s a cast iron kettle sitting on that cooking surface to give visitors a sense of how it was being used. Given the ways that it connects to and tells the story of the people of the house and the food ways of the city, it’s place on the first floor and the physically interesting design, the stove seemed like a great artifact to zero in on for this project. So we aim to produce an interactive version of the stove that would help convey the scale, design, and detail to visitors to demonstrate first the unique physical nature of the stove, which connects to the time period and addresses its features such as the cast iron over fireplace and low cooking surface, as well as how the stove fits into the larger context of the house and of the city, including who was cooking on this stove and the food ways of New Orleans.
The first installation at the Intrepid Museum included a full size 2D relief of one half of the stove as pictured on the left, which demonstrated the detailed ironwork and indicated the cooking height. At the cooking height, an antique iron kettle was placed inside of a plexiglass box with a small opening in the front so visitors could feel it and its handle sticking out so that they could also lift it. Below the kettle, buttons labeled Push to Listen provided more details from staff and docents on the stove and the people who cooked on it. We received a lot of helpful feedback from that prototyping process. For example, it wasn’t immediately evident from the design that the kettle was intended to be at the height of the cooking surface, and we determined that that ledge needed to extend the full width of the stove to give that more visual and physical demonstration that’s that’s a cooking surface, that’s the stove top, essentially.
The installation was also displayed at the Intrepid Museum in a heavily trafficked area. So that plexiglass box was necessary there and important, but we determined that at the 1850 house, where it’s a much slower… I don’t want to say trickle, it’s more than a trickle, but steady stream of visitors, we didn’t need that. And so we could do away with the plexiglass box and allow visitors to engage more fully with the object. We also limited the content so that the final audio was actually a duplicate of the written labels, and we added smells based off of advisor’s suggestions. So for the final installation, we began exploring ways to create a fully three-dimensional replica of the stove to be installed in an alcove just outside the kitchen, which is outdoors but covered. And we initially thought that 3D printing would be the way to go, and we worked with a local company who came out who did extensive measurements and discussed weather resistant options.
But after some delay in hearing from them, we finally received a quote for the project for over $40,000. Which, needless to say, was out of our budget. We went back to the drawing board and we sought guidance from the Intrepid Exhibits team, who were fabulous partners, and began looking for ways to fabricate it out of other materials. I reached out to a local exhibits installation company in New Orleans called Denali, who were eager to take on the project and to explore more creative solutions. They created a replica of the stove pictured here on the right out of wood and aluminum, and cast the actual stove doors out of aluminum. We were able to remove one of the full doors for them to take and cast off site. So it’s now a fully 3D cast that actually opens on the replica to reveal a fake pie.
And then the smaller doors were not removable, so they used clay to get an imprint of those designs on site and then also fabricated them offsite. The bottom of the stove is much lower and less accessible for touching, so we opted to just wrap that in a vinyl print of the design. Not only was this a more feasible design overall, but it better replicated the texture and materials than a 3D print could have. We also incorporated four smells, coffee, oranges, pecan praline, and coal smoke, giving a sense of some of the foods that might have been cooked in there, and also the environment that people cooking would’ve experienced. I brought samples of them with me here today. The ones I have aren’t labeled, so Amy’s going to bring them down and you can pass them as you’d like, and you get to guess. If doesn’t make it all the way back to you and you want to smell it after the session, come on up.
We initially looked for places that we could order or create really specific smells, and we were really ambitious about what exactly those smells might be, but we were not able to find good options. I found something in another country, but it wasn’t accessible to us. And in the end, we ordered them from Amazon. And while they aren’t perfect, technically the smell is pecan pie, not pecan praline. They’re pretty close, I think. And we periodically just add more of the smell, the oil to cotton balls that are inside of labeled spice jars, and they’ve been lasting a lot longer than expected. So the smells are installed in two locations at two different heights. One is about four feet high on the shelf of the stove visible in this image. The other one is much lower on a shutter to the door to the kitchen. And then we also have an additional set. Now two more sets because I made another one to travel with that we can use with groups.
So the photo in this center of this next slide shows the full installation with the replica on the left next to stairs that visitors descend after visiting the upstairs space. About four feet to the right, the door is open to the kitchen and we’ve installed additional labels, written and in braille about the stove and this project on those shutter doors. A longer label is on the back wall that describes the stove, the people who worked there and the cooking conditions. And then that label is what’s also available in audio form as well as of course in braille via a push to listen button, which is visible in the closeup of the stove on the right of this slide. Also, in that right image, we found a similar cast iron kettle on eBay. And then Denali helped us fabricate a slow release mechanism so it can be lifted and then slowly lowered to avoid injury.
They also added weight to the kettle to help visitors understand how heavy it could be. Think about it’s a cast iron kettle, but it’s also probably filled with something. I will note though, that I have observed visitors trying to lift it and then being thrown off by how heavy it is and assuming that they were wrong in reading the label that said lift, and they shouldn’t be doing that and kind of backing off. So we might actually remove some of that weight. I’ll also quickly note that Denali’s work, including the fabrication of the stove, the casting of the doors, the close photography to create the vinyl wrap, the kettle mechanism and the installation, all came out to $5,000. Much better. They were also eager and creative partners, excited by the design challenge, the possibility of diving into similar work in the future, and to improve accessibility through their work.
So this felt like a really exciting new different opportunity to them. And I would just encourage anyone embarking on similar projects to think about who in your networks might be good partners, but hasn’t done exactly this yet, but has experience in installation or otherwise. Because as I mentioned, it was a new venture for Denali, but they had such creative ideas and tools to create something well beyond our initial expectations. Since the installation was completed, we’ve been doing periodic visitor observations as well as inviting groups to visit and provide feedback. On the left, a participant with one of those groups is feeling the cast of the stove doors. We’ve noted a few things we’d like to add or adjust. For example, the audio clip is a little long. We’d like to create a way to stop it, not just start it or change it maybe to a handheld device so a visitor can choose when they’re done engaging with it.
The participant pictured here actually also had a really great suggestion about creating an audio clip of ambient kitchen noises, which if it doesn’t happen for this installation, we hope we can create in a future project in this space or otherwise. We’ll continue to solicit feedback and do tracking, which will inform not only adjustments to this installation, but I’m hopeful future installations at our museum. So on that note, just to quickly share, one area that I’m really excited to see this project inform is the reopening of our other historic house in the French Quarter, Madame John’s Legacy. Which is the oldest residential building in the quarter, and its design reflects the French colonial period. And it’s just about two blocks away from the 1850 House. It’s been closed for several years for renovation, and we’re currently working on the interpretation plan for that reopening.
It’s pictured on the left just before renovation. The main living space is up on the second floor with a large balcony along the front. And the first floor is a raised basement area that will house exhibitions, highlighting the history and the archeology of the site. On the right is a picture of an archeology dig that actually just took place just this spring as a part of that restoration process. And I share these just to highlight how helpful this project has been in informing future designs, thinking about how we can incorporate sensory experiences into each of our museum sites, historic house or not. What can we bring out behind glass or replicate? What tools can we use to convey, smell, sounds, textures, et cetera, to our visitors, both at these historic houses and in all of our exhibits?
All right, well, thank you Cheryl and Sara. And so out of this work, out of the feedback from Cheryl and the other advocates, from Sara and the other historic sites, we were then developed the toolkit, which is available on our website. And I have some hard copies up here too. But basically we broke out our toolkit to focus on some of the different themes that our sites explored. So that’s around tactile experiences. So those are touch experiences that help visitors better engage with content, about bringing stories out from behind glass. So that could be offering reproductions of key artifacts, as Sarah described, in an accessible and interactive environment to enhance engagement with interpretation. Around using multiple senses intentionally, creating opportunities to engage through touch or audio or smell, for example. Of incorporating multiple perspectives, thinking about how when we bring in different senses, it’s also an opportunity to tell more and richer stories.
And then thinking about accessible content design. So that means things like thinking about the language that we use, so incorporating plain language and following those best practices, thinking about the length of audio components or labels and things like that. And then we also talk a little bit about digital experiences. So using an accessible mobile mobile device, for example, whether it’s something built off of a template that we have, or if you’re working with a partner, such as we are now with Bloomberg Connects to kind of take our next step and many other sites probably are as well. So this is a toolkit that we hope can help inform some of those decisions that sites might be making and those processes. So some of the main things that we address are about incorporating multisensory engagement. So thinking about those steps in that process of making an audit of what are the ways that you already engage different senses? What are those strengths that are already built into your space?
And then what are the gaps? And so then using that to then provide multiple ways to interact with content. So for example, if you’re providing information visually, how can you add audio? How can you add tactile tools? Or if something’s just audio, what are different ways to bring that in and make that more accessible? And then making sensory exploration optional. So Sara’s scent jars are a great example of that. That’s something that you open to explore, for example. In the way that we did it in the prototype at the museum, which we have on the screen here, we created, it was kind of displayed on an angle, at a diagonal, so that you could kind of turn the lid open. And then when you’re done, you don’t have to actively close it. Gravity will do the work, but it’s also not going to snap on your finger, it’s just going to slide closed.
So that way when it’s not actively being used, it is closed. And so the smell remains contained. It’s going to permeate in the environment. Because some people can be sensitive to smell. Also smell can trigger lots of memories, which may be good, but also not so good. And so we want to make sure that those things are optional. Also, kind of as Sarah alluded to, when you have audio components that aren’t contained in a headset or on a device, making sure that those are things that you can actually turn off. And that was something that we learned through our prototyping. And this is a closeup of the kettle that we had at the museum, which had those three different audio components and some people did raise the issue of not being able to turn it off and it being really overwhelming when they couldn’t do so, or they just wanted to move on to the next one. They didn’t have that option.
And then of course, as we’ve alluded to throughout, using co-design methods, so engaging partners in a core working group. There are different ways of structuring this, but thinking about again, what expertise and resources do you already have and what’s missing? Who is not included already in that process? So that means actively including disabled self-advocates at all stages and working in budget for compensation. So if you’re putting in a grant, making sure that you’re writing it into the grant, for example. And really honoring that expertise, honoring the time that people are putting into this work. And again, looking for opportunities to work with local universities and other organizations. And that can help address some of those budgetary limits you might have, as Amy discussed with working with the Ability Project and Sara trying out those different vendors to find the one that actually made sense for their budget and what they were trying to accomplish.
And then making sure that you’re brainstorming together and that you’re developing these prototypes. And so starting with those low cost materials and leaving room for change. So for example, iterating with cardboard to create different types of tactile images before you settle on that final version. And then of course actually doing that testing once you have those prototypes and making those adjustments as you go. So keeping in that flexibility, making sure you have that, you leave room for that as well. And then of course actually fabricating and installing those with your wonderful partners.
But part of this is also of course building your institutional capacity. So that could mean surveying your staff and volunteers. At some sites there might just be a couple people, but at others you might have some more people, to identify what are some of those existing areas of expertise that people do have who are already the allies that you have within your organization that you might not have known about because you never asked? And that can give you a better sense of the tools that you already have and then areas that you might need to grow and find and bring in those outside partners. And then also being really honest about the constraints of your organization and being transparent with your advisors, with your partners, about that at all stages of the process. Setting that up early on so that you can then follow through and come up with those creative solutions together in a realistic way.
And then of course, all of this work will mean nothing if your staff and volunteers are not on board and prepared. So making sure that you’re training your staff, training your volunteers, your board members and others who are involved. So that can mean trainings around disability language. One of our advisors on the project, Emily Ladau, has written a wonderful book, Demystifying Disability. It’s available as a paperback, it’s available as an audiobook. It’s available in plain language, but she really breaks down some of those best practices. But this is also something that changes. And so being proactive in that, staying up to date in that, and really seeking out that feedback. Training your staff in customer service in etiquette and making sure that people don’t get nervous and suddenly don’t know what to say or do when someone with a disability shows up at the museum.
But actually being very welcoming in that way. And then going over some best practices around things like verbal description so that you can kind of fill in those gaps with your staff. Human resources are a valuable tool in this work, those skills that you have. And then also taking advantage of existing templates, especially around digital accessibility. We have some resources in the toolkit about those that you can seek out and apply whether for updating your website or making other resources available. We also have templates in the toolkit, like a sample letter to reach out to community members to advise on the project, as well as kind of templates of observation rubrics and surveys that you can then adapt for your own site. So we don’t want you to have to start from scratch. We hope that this is something that will then be applicable to a wide range of organizations.
All right. We invite a few to share and then we’ll open it up for Q and A. Amy has the microphone and we just ask that you wait until you have the microphone before you start talking. All right. So do we have a table.. Oh, all the way in the back?
Thank you for the steps.
This is Felicia. I am the head of interpretation, accessibility, and diversity at the North Carolina Museum of Arts. Cheryl, we met at Museum Web a month ago. I don’t know if you remember, but I’m actually, I’m the museum person in my group. And the other two people I worked with were designers, fabricators. And so I talked about the importance of that prototyping and the museum itself building in the time with the fabricator or designer, whether it’s internal or external, to really work with the community.
So one example I gave is we had a lift station in a accessible exhibition and the designers prototyped four different types of handles. And we tested it with people with cerebral palsy so that if you couldn’t make a grip, what type of handle might work best? Kids’ hands and adult hands. And so we were able to test that with the community and then select the handle based off of that prototype, which was really nice. So we had talked about working that in as well. And just the time and too for me, the outreach that it takes. And so some of that kind of internal, you guys had a word for it, but I would call it capacity.
Awesome. Thank you.
We like to celebrate everyone. Who’s next?
All the way in the back right corner.
Well, I work at the Barbara Anderson Girl Scout Museum in Phoenix. And a lot of the objects we work with are cloth based, vintage uniforms or merit badges or things like that. And I was thinking that maybe we could create replicas with the image on the merit badge, for example, slightly lifted so that anyone who’s blind or just can’t really perceive the object could get an idea of what the image might look like or anything like that.
Awesome. Thank you for sharing that.
Yay. That is so great. I dropped my card on your table because I have a graduate student whose thesis was exactly on that.
Yes, they’re very cool.
Magic of computerized embroidery machines.
Hi, this is Katie. I work at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. So my partner at the table we’re both directors of education. And so we had a conversation about the difference of interpretation as educators versus in exhibit spaces. And what we discussed was how can we implement this accessible programming and accessible interpretation where our exhibits teams or fabricators or curators may have a different approach. And since we are the ones implementing the things, we can kind of get a little more creative with how that is done and what we use to do that.
Hello. We have a really diverse and cool table. One of the projects that I’m currently working on is a site in, well, multiple sites in Saudi Arabia. And one of the sites is 3000 years old, so obviously wasn’t designed or built with accessibility in mind for the ancient Dadan and Leonite Kingdom who once controlled the incense road. What we are currently piloting are doing sensory backpacks. So there are three backpacks with three different perspectives.
One for an archeologist, one for a child who was living in ancient Dadan, and the other one being a caravaneer who would’ve traveled through. And all of the objects, instruments, different activities within there, would relate to their experience. From the sandwiches that an archeologist would eat as they’re exploring the site to the oasis kind of produce that you would be having as a Dadanite. So it’d be really interesting to pilot out and prototype it and then think about how that become permanent exhibits and installations. But I think there’s something about programming allowing you that flexibility to trial and improve and see how people learn and respond and gradually improve that accessibility. But you are doing neon’s lights in Las Vegas and that’s so much cooler.
That’s awesome. Thank you. And I’ll just say real quick that as someone housed within the education department, a lot of that testing and idea comes out often of programming and then can then influence the way that we design exhibits in the future and also kind of show the reason why, kind of showing that it is effective and can then inspire and inform exhibits as well. So thank you for sharing that. All right. In the back?
Hi. So currently I’m a graduate student and I’m lucky enough for my thesis that I get to put together my own exhibition and just do whatever I want to do on my own. And so I’ve chosen to look at art and I wanted to do, one of the sensory options was have listening stations where artists can do poetry or bedtime stories because it’s about art that isn’t made for gallery consumption, is made for private consumption and an exploration like that intimacy and having the idea of maybe having a children’s bed that someone can sit on while they listen to this lullaby or bedtime story or having a rocking chair that they can hear a poem while they’re sitting in and feeling the motion of that and having this physical station. And another way I wanted to, since I get to do this on my own and it’s going to be a small space, I wanted to make multiple different audio tour options.
So potentially having one where each artist gets to narrate their piece and what their piece is about, having one where I go through and I narrate what my vision was, what I wanted to do. Having a third one that maybe allows people who visit the exhibit to speak into a microphone and give a comment or create a community collaboration of what they got out of these pieces and include not just having this painting is this, this is what it looks like, but also having this painting is this, this is what it looks like. This is what would make it me feel, this is what I picture. This is a memory that this painting has evoked within me. And offering this basis and then going off the basis so that people don’t just say, this painting has a lot of blue and red. It’s this painting looks like a Sunday afternoon with my grandmother and we’re drinking tea and it makes me feel like I am at home and it is welcoming, and that kind of idea.
And I’m very lucky that I only have to have 20 objects, so this is all feasible for me to do on my own. But that kind of idea of not just taking ADA and going, our space is accessible, but is it navigable? Is it, do people want to navigate it? And what does that accessibility look like and what can we do with that accessibility to make it even more for people? And offering that to people who have no disability because anything a disabled person can get to make their lives easier, can be used by non-disabled people. And it makes no sense not to design for disabled people if all non-disabled people can also use those resources.
Thank you. I love that spirit. So we’ll take one more share out and then we’ll open it up for Q and A. I love all these ideas and I can’t wait to hear how the prototyping goes and what lessons we all learn from these.
Okay. I’m Mac West, former director, consultant, and I look at lots of different museums from different positions. But just listening to this conversation, one thing comes through very clearly is that the word visitor is a plural and different visitors come to whatever our experiences are with different backgrounds or different expectations. And we were talking here about the interpretations of people of a different generation and what history says of them now compared to what it said of them perhaps a generation or two generations ago. Or another example that I personally have encountered is an organization called Biblically Correct Tours, which visits natural history museums in order to confirm that evolution is false. And the staff of the natural history museums have a very, very difficult time in dealing with this when their visitors come in and challenge the basic ideas of the institution.
Well, thank you. So I’m going to open it up for Q and A as well for additional questions. I saw a hand up in the front and Amy will run around. I’m just going to point out that I have the link again to our toolkit. I have hard copies at the front as well. It’s also in the app. And I’m going to put up our slide with our contact information in case you want to follow with us up with us individually. And I also want to thank IMLS for their support of this project as well. Go ahead.
All right, thank you all. Wonderful suggestions and great efforts. Thank you for sharing. We’re puzzled by, I work for the Aspen Historical Society, so we’re up in the mountains here in Colorado and we steward both historic house as well as ghost towns. So we have a lot of accessibility issues in that even people without being labeled disabled can’t access a ghost town at 10,500 feet because they can’t climb down there and climb back out. So I’m curious for ideas, we were actually talking at the table about, I went to the planetarium thing on Friday night where they did the Carlsbad Caverns with Open Space, which was, or I think that was the name of the technology. And just wondering if there’s any other ideas that people have for even we can’t, guests can’t visit the second floor of our museum because we can’t add that to a historic property legally. So I’m just wondering if anybody has any ideas on just that physical.
Immediately makes me think of, I can’t really speak to this, but if you read the toolkit, it’ll help. One of our other historic sites, Fort Ticonderoga, has a lot of trails and very expansive, but for our site we have a very similar challenge of we can’t build an elevator at the 1850 House. Boy would I love to, but even the levels of the dependencies in the main house are not the same even. So there’s a lot of challenges there. So for us it was thinking about what were some of the richest content areas and the key themes and information we wanted visitors to get out of their experience and how could we use that to inform how we want to start.
This is not the end for this house. I think I hope that in five or 10 years we can look back and it’s going to be a really accessible and engaging space floor to ceiling. But where do we want to start that is a feasible entry point and something that is also really meaningful? What spaces are available and how can we take best advantage of them to tell stories that connect to the rest of the space? And I think also there’s always possibilities for creating virtual tours, for creating other ways to convey what’s happening in inaccessible spaces. But I would just say that’s never, that shouldn’t be the only thing a video does not replace.
Yeah, And I was going to say, just making sure that having the digital, having those resources online is super helpful. We have Google Arts and Culture for example, so we can open up a lot of our inaccessible spaces on the ship and in the submarine to visitors. But one of the key things is that is available to anyone. You’re not paying admission to the museum to then just watch the video or use the go through the website. It’s making sure that people know ahead of time what they can access physically. And then thinking about what we can bring out of the space.
So for example, moving the stove into an accessible area of the museum. So thinking about what interpretation we can bring out and making sure that anything that is digital, that is virtual, is not something that people are coming have to come for to access, to just sit and watch a video in the next room while everyone else in your group goes around the museum. And that came up pretty explicitly in our discussions in the first convening. So there’s no one answer, but I think thinking about it and then doing that testing and talking to the stakeholders is a big part of that.
I actually have an idea about for what to do with your ghost towns. So I just learned about this. The Colorado Department of Transportation uses what’s called View Shed Analysis, which is a GIS technology that allows anyone to be able to see in a 360 view on any elevation what they have available to see. And it’s all on their website. I learned about this at a conference actually a couple weeks ago, that CDOT is developing view shed analysis, not just for the summer. It’s for how they do construction projects for scenic byways. So when they’re driving on a scenic byway, they’re not obstructing what’s the beautiful mountain view. And so then what they do is they also do it seasonally. So when there are leaves on the trees versus knots. And so the view should analysis will actually allow you to go at that elevation online and then be able to describe people what they can see in a 360 view. It’s called View Shed Analysis. Anyone has it, a computational program used by GIS. You know, geo software something or others. So anyway, just a thought.
What do you need to have access to that?
Well, you as the site would do it, right, but then you could describe what’s available to people and then if it was available. The other thing is the Colorado Trails app actually, you can download it and it’s most trails offline.
Right. So that’s the advantage of having the Colorado Trails app is that it’s available offline.
Great. Thank you. Great to know your local resources.
Thank you so much. Just to emphasize, we have exactly the same challenge. So at Dadan we have the lion tombs that are at the top of this incredible staircase, but lots of people would die if they independently did it. So that’s a really bad idea. What we’ve started doing is actually bringing in artists and working with them because they’re often kind of unlocked and unleashed from our very pedantic thinking of kind of like, and they’re really curious and inquisitive and want to know what are the narratives, what are the stories? They’re playful with the materials.
So for Jubba [inaudible 01:17:23], for example, which is another one of our sites where we have over 500 inscriptions dating back about 2000 years, they’re looking at that and we’re doing a poetry in residence. So we’re looking at how we’re doing spoken words, how can we bring in objects, how can we bring in smells? And that’s going to be engaging for everybody, but it doesn’t need to be the same medium that we typically use in historic interpretation. And I think bringing together the world of art, science, communication, heritage interpretation, and seeing ourselves in the middle of that Venn diagram, I think really unique and kind of special things could happen. So yes, let’s see if it works in reality. But yeah, we’re excited to see what happens next.
Awesome. Thank you so much. It is now 11:50, so it is our end time. So it’s a great thought to end on. Thank you. But we are happy to stick around for a little bit longer if you have more questions or want to talk. And like I said, we have a few hard copies of the toolkit if you like to have a paper version of it as well. But thank you so much for joining and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.