ARCHES Participants. Photograph: Sabine Gruber

Museum for All and ARCHES: towards inclusion in museums.

Museum for All is a platform that has been running since 2012 and whose main focus has always been to promote accessibility to museums and cultural centres regarding the needs and variety of their audiences. In this sense, its path relates to the H2020 European project ARCHES, which stands for “Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage and Ecosystems”.

This project has been developed within three years by different partners, such as research institutions like the University of Bath and The Open University, technological companies like Singtime and Coprix Media, and –most importantly- museums all around Europe such as Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Spain), the Victoria and Albert Museum (United Kingdom), the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Austria), Museo Lázaro Galdiano (Spain), the Wallace Collection (United Kingdom), and Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias (Spain).

Participants of ARCHES Project are presenting results

ARCHES has brought together disabled people, technology companies, universities and museums in order to develop technical solutions such as tactile reliefs made with the latest 3D modelling techniques, barrier-free apps and games for smartphones and tablets, sign-language avatars and other cutting-edge techniques oriented to a better sensorial and cognitive experience of the museum. These technologies have been co-designed and tested by more than 200 disabled people in Spain, Austria and the United Kingdom.

This video shows an introduction to the project made by some of the people who participated in it.

As the video points out, ARCHES did not aim to differentiate between one type of disability and another, but to provide a better experience of the pieces displayed at museums for everyone visiting them. In order to achieve this, the research team –made up of members of universities, museum professionals and people with different disabilities- have put together a series of workshops to promote active participation, taking into account and paying special attention to the guidelines and needs expressed by disabled people.

ARCHES’workshop at Musei Capitolini (Rome, Italy) ©ARCHES 2019

It is at this point where ARCHES and Museum for All meet together. ARCHES’ main objectives and research methodologies match the protocols that Museum for All intends to follow, always taking into account the opinion and participation of the museum’s users in order to improve spaces and experiences. ARCHES’ website contains a list of the objectives and work packages followed during the development of the project, which can be briefly summarized in the following ideas:

  1. ARCHES focusses on develop and evaluate strategies to put new technologies at the service of people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition and communication in order to enable their inclusion in museums.
  2. The project also works on identifying sources –Internet, internal archives, libraries, etc. – that could integrate this content into innovative tools and on inserting them in operational environments based on participatory research.
  3. The main purpose of this is to work with cultural heritage sites and museums to help them engage with a wider range of audiences promoting the tools and applications developed by this participatory research by means of on-site demonstration activities.

Taking these as a base, Museum for All wants to explore how all of it can be applied to smaller museums –which is one of Museum for All’s main objectives- and also include other groups and other needs that involve family models (looking specially at tour and spaces for children), lifestyle (promoting options in museum’s cafés for vegan and vegetarian people, allergies, diet restrictions, etc.), and ethical commitments (such as social inclusion beyond disabilities, gender representation, ageing, etc.). The tracking on how apps and other technological, structural or planning facilities can help to make museums more bearable and accessible taking into consideration the variety and plurality of public is another thing that Museum for All and ARCHES have in common, thus ARCHES methodology serves as a basis for carrying out and realizing these objectives.

The Multimedia Station © ARCHES 2019

ARCHES’ results are to find online and put at the service of museums and the cultural community. They are available in three languages (English, German and Spanish) and focus on the implementation of participatory methodologies towards a wider inclusion in museums.

If you are interested in reading more about these far-reaching commitment that Museum for All has towards inclusion, please check out our posts “Beyond Disabilities” (I, II, and III). At Museum for All we know that these aspects can still be expanded and that there is still a long way to go for museums to become a place of encounter and representation, of memory and expression, also contributing to contemporary realities of contemporary people who use and experience them – something that has changed and will continue to change over time, preferably towards a more inclusive and plural society.

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