Accessibility

Ecsite: How to create inclusive exhibition for younger children?

Several interesting museums were united to discuss a very controversial and fascinating subject: Deutsches MuseumuniverscienceThe Graz Children's MuseumZOOOM! Gallery part of the  Ingenium Canada

 

How is it possible, or how can museums try and reach the best today's children? There are so many aspects and elements to take into consideration...

Many questions come into one's mind: at what age do they do this or that? What if they can't do the activity we intend them to do? Is the atmosphere welcoming enough? 

 

Is it possible to take care of all "special needs" of the children, and what are those needs? Which language/communication tool should be used? 

 

A simple example that the responsible of the The Graz Children's Museum exhibitions, Mrs Deutsch-Dabernig, gave us at the very beginning of her « presentation » was to invite us all to a dinner where she would serve us a very typical Austrian meal…

Then after having made some good points, she insisted on how complex it can get to handle the « inclusive » elements, and in the end told us that it would not be possible to offer the same Austrian meal to every Ecsite participant - some of us being allergic, having specific religious beliefs, special needs, etc. 

 

What she meant was that there is no right nor wrong, and that from her point of view, we try to offer children exhibitions where they can pick something that concerns them but in which not all the exhibition can correspond to their needs.

 

From what I understand, the The Graz Children's Museum  is in a day-to-day thinking process, taking no element for granted and trying always to check if what they do corresponds to what they aim to obtain at the end of the day… 

For instance, regarding an exhibition they did about chocolate, her thoughts would be: how about a topic in which as a child you cannot try or eat some sweet « for real » – but also, what about peanut allergies and vegan stuff ???

 In parallel to this interesting point of view and experience, the exhibition manager of ZOOOM! , a children’s innovation zone, an 8,000 square foot area dedicated to children under 8 years of age at the Canada Science & Tech Museum, part of Canada’s Ingenium, located in Ottawa, Sylvaine Champagne, exhibition manager for ZOOOM!, went very far into the conclusions she made about inclusion. This museum has been closed for two years, rethinking its strategy and its offers.

 

 

At this children’s oriented gallery, there are: no chronology, no instructions, no right/wrong answers, a warm space with seats for adults to wait for their kids, a living lab, the four senses are taken into consideration, they even received some specific certification.

As she emphasized it, it’s an on-going process, with room for improvement…

Also, from her experience she insisted on the fact that the staff needs to be trained for standards and also included into the creation of some kind of matrix. Therefore, as not to forget any elements they wish to take into considerationThe Canada Science and Technology Museum received the Accessibility Certified Gold rating under the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM. It was the first national public institution in Canada to earn it..

 

Mrs Champagne showed us a video, and in fact they did a lot of testings with children but also including people withspecial needs, as they decided to include some « risk elements » into this kids’ zone.

Overall, I really enjoyed this contribution because it showed us how dificult it can be to try and do our best to target all different audiences, saying: the wider we get, the better…

And at the same time, being very aware about the fact that we do what is possible for us, and thus we cannot be perfect – as much as we try.

Geolocated Aplication: Museum of fine Arts, Nantes. With games for children. 

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