All posts by Moritz Neumüller

Moritz Neumüller (b. Linz, Austria, 1972) is a curator, educator and activist in the field of contemporary art. His artistic research practice goes under the name artecontacto, a project aimed at exploring art through all senses, in workshops, exhibitions and publications. Since 2010, he runs the The Curator Ship, a platform for visual artists.

Why touching art is so tempting — and exciting. Repost from CNN.

Updated 13th May 2019

Marlen Komar, CNN

Imagine an empty gallery in a museum. It’s just you, a 200-year-old masterpiece and the quiet. The brush strokes of a Rembrandt painting draw you in, and with your hands behind your back, you lean in to study the colors and textures.
Looking sideways, you spot the security guard at the door, standing bored and inattentive. You could easily reach out your hand and steal a quick touch, rules be damned.

Fiona Candlin, a professor of museology at Birkbeck College in London and author of “Art, Museums, and Touch,” is all too familiar with these clandestine moments. She spent years investigating the motivations behind why visitors touch exhibits without permission, what they choose to touch, and how these unauthorized touches make them feel.
As it turns out, this type of rule-breaking is a common part of the museum-going experience. While she was observing unauthorized touching at the British Museum for a report published in The Senses and Society journal, a security guard told Candlin, “You stop a hundred people touching and there are 200 more … It’s like trying to turn back the sea.”
Closer inspection
Museums are often seen as sober places, where visitors are expected to silently walk from gallery to gallery and contemplate art from a distance. But Simon Hayhoe, a lecturer at the University of Bath who specializes in art education and disability, suggests we often want to close that distance and interact with works more intimately.

Solid gold toilet to land in English stately home
He links this to the original purpose of Renaissance artworks, which were hung inside churches to teach people about Bible stories. The pieces were hung in a way that created a sense of remoteness and reverence, and made the viewer feel like an outsider.
“What the church did was put the art out of reach. They never put it close to the people so they can stand in front of it. They were designed to be seen (up) high, and so people would look at them in awe and wonder,” Hayhoe explained in a phone interview.

“So there is a sense of power there as well. There is a sense of you are not allowed anywhere near this painting, because it’s imbued with God, it’s imbued with power, it’s imbued with something you’re never going to be close to.”
According to Candlin, there are numerous reasons why museum visitors are so tempted to touch art, one of which is classic empirical investigation — simply put, the desire to learn more.

“If you want to find out how finely a surface has been finished, or how two bits are joined together, or how deep an engraving is, the best way to find out is by touching it,” Candlin said in a phone interview.
“You want to know how something is made, you want to know what it’s made of, you want to try and get a sense of how it’s put together, and so you touch for those kinds of reasons.”

Part of that inspection is to confirm authenticity. “There can be a real blur between museums and experiences and theme parks and wax works. Often if you have really big objects on display — if you think about going into the Egyptian galleries in the British Museum or the Met. Some people can’t believe you would put real things on display without glass around them. They’re not quite sure and they figure if they touch it, they can make an assessment,” Candlin said.

Touching also has to do with playing with the art pieces on display — especially when it comes to statues of animals and humans. But because these figures aren’t real, museum-goers feel free to push boundaries, patting lion heads or groping naked bottoms. They’re making visual jokes and performing for both themselves and the people they are with.
In Candlin’s research, she found that the British Museum’s Lely Venus, a Roman statue of the goddess leaving her bath, had her behind cupped so often that the piece was put behind barriers.
An emotional connection
Standing in front of artwork also often evokes an emotional response. It’s not just about appreciating technique, Candlin explained, but thinking of the human element behind the work and wanting to connect with the person behind the genius.
“If something is made by a named artist, the museum goer wants to feel they have some connection with that named artist. Barbara Hepworth put her hand here and I’m now putting my hand here,” Candlin said.
“There is a sculpture by Hepworth at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in England) where you can see her finger marks in it, and if people notice it they will often put their hand against her finger marks to give that sense of her hand and their hand meeting.”
While she doesn’t go so far as to suggest people break the rules the next time they’re at a museum, Candlin does believe touching is an important — and, unfortunately for security guards, inevitable — part of experiencing art.
“People aren’t just touching the ends of their fingers — they’re stroking things, they’re holding things, they’re mimicking,” she continued. “You’ve got to see touching as part of the continuum of ways in which people physically interact with objects.”

P1020147

First ARCHES Workshop in Madrid, 13.6.2019, Lázaro Galdiano Museum.

The project ARCHES will organize a series of workshops with the objective to reach museum professionals in Europe and around the world. The first Workshop will take place in Spain on 13.6.2019, Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid

Germany: fall of 2019, Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn

France, fall of 2019: Musée d’arts de Nantes

Italy, fall of 2019: TBC

Croatia and Slovenia, fall of 2019: TBC

These workshops will be accompanied by a 80 page handbook, published in three languages (German, English and Spanish) which will be both printed and distributed as a PDF and plain text through the ARCHES website.

First workshop: Towards a Participatory Museum: Inclusive Activities in Cultural Institutions

Workshop for Spanish and Iberoamerican museum professionals

13.6.2019, Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid

Introduction

This workshop is the first in a series of events to disseminate the results of a three-year research within the framework of the ARCHES project.
The visit to the museum should be a time of learning, of discovery. 
Eduardo, ARCHES group Madrid
The workshop is based on our work with four participatory research groups in four European cities: London, Madrid, Oviedo and Vienna. Each of these participatory research groups included between fifteen and thirty-five people with a wide range of access preferences often associated with sensory and/or cognitive impairments.

Timetable

The workshop will be held on 13 June, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum in Madrid.

How to participate

– The workshop is free and open to professionals working in Spanish and Ibero-American museums.
– Registration open until end of May
– Maximum 50 participants
– Registration by email, with Name, Surname, Affiliation, email, telephone
– Please indicate access needs and dietary requirements
– The workshop will be in Spanish. There will be translation in LSE, in case any participant needs it.
– Registration through email workshops@arches-project.eu

—–> Español / Spanish:

Taller ARCHES para profesionales de museos españoles e iberoamericanos

“Hacia un museo participativo: actividades inclusivas en instituciones culturales”

El taller “Hacia un museo participativo: actividades inclusivas en instituciones culturales” es el primero de una serie de eventos para difundir los resultados de una investigación de tres años en el marco del proyecto ARCHES. El objetivo del taller es compartir con los profesionales de los museos españoles e iberoamericanos lo que hemos aprendido en nuestro proyecto.

El taller se basa en el trabajo que hemos desarrollado junto a cuatro grupos de investigación participativa en cuatro ciudades europeas: Londres, Madrid, Oviedo y Viena. Cada uno de estos grupos de investigación participativa incluye entre quince y treinta y cinco personas con varias preferencias y necesidades de accesibilidad, a menudo asociadas a discapacidades sensoriales y/o cognitivas.

Los contenidos de este taller reflejan, sobre todo, las experiencias con los grupos en el Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, el Museo Lázaro Galdiano y el Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias.

  • FECHA: jueves 13 de junio de 2019
  • HORA: de 9 a 17 horas
  • Actividad GRATUITA
  • Inscripción abierta de abril a mayo
  • Inscripción en workshops@arches-project.eu
  • Inscripciones con nombre, apellidos, afiliación, email y teléfono
  • Por favor, indicar necesidades de acceso y requerimientos dietéticos
  • Máximo 50 participantes
  • Taller en español. Habrá traducción en LSE
  • Para más información visite www.arches-project.eu
  • LUGAR: Museo Lázaro Galdiano. Calle Serrano 122 (Madrid)

Este proyecto ha recibido financiación del programa de investigación e innovación Horizonte 2020 de la Unión Europea bajo el acuerdo nº 693229.

Planteamiento del taller

 

ARCHES es un proyecto europeo que busca hacer los museos más accesibles para todos a través de tecnologías y una metodología participativa. Gracias al apoyo de la Unión Europea, ARCHES ha reunido a personas con discapacidad, empresas tecnológicas, universidades y museos. Junto a los grupos participativos hemos desarrollado y probado soluciones tecnológicas durante tres años.

Cada grupo ARCHES realizó su propia investigación, teniendo en cuenta los intereses de los participantes y las condiciones del propio museo. La experiencia de todos ellos nos ha permitido desarrollar materiales y recursos tecnológicos que facilitan el acceso a nuestras colecciones.

En este taller vamos a compartir nuestras principales experiencias y aprendizajes: la metodología que utilizamos, cómo hemos preparado un proyecto como este y algunas actividades inclusivas que hemos hecho para explorar el museo y nuestras capacidades.

Compartiremos ejemplos de las actividades que han funcionado y las que no. Este evento se complementará con una serie de talleres en museos europeos durante el otoño e invierno y un evento final en Madrid, el 7 de noviembre del 2019 (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Será en el marco de estos eventos en los que se presentarán las soluciones tecnológicas y algunos de los proyectos de los participantes de los grupos de ARCHES.

 

Imágenes de la investigación participativa del proyecto ARCHES

Horarios

 

Primera sesión, 9 – 10:30 h:

  • Introducción a ARCHES
  • Romper barreras del concepto de discapacidad

Pausa

Segunda sesión, 11 – 12 h:

  • Cómo organizar un proyecto: compartiendo experiencias

Pausa

Tercera sesión, 12:30 – 13:30:

  • Planificación y modelos de trabajo
  • Actividades inclusivas

Clausura 13:30 – 14:00

  • Clausura del taller

15:30 – 17 h

  • Visita inclusiva al museo (opcional)

El proyecto ARCHES

 

Nuestro objetivo es crear entornos culturales más inclusivos para las personas con discapacidad sensorial y/o cognitiva mediante un proceso de investigación que conduce al desarrollo y la validación de funcionalidades, aplicaciones y experiencias innovadoras a partir de la reutilización de recursos digitales.

ARCHES se basa en tres puntos esenciales: una metodología participativa de investigación, la reutilización de los recursos digitales existentes y el desarrollo de tecnologías innovadoras.

Obviamente, ARCHES no es el primer proyecto sobre accesibilidad en museos, ni el único. Colaboramos con otros proyectos y redes internacionales, con la finalidad de crear sinergias en el campo de la inclusión y accesibilidad a la cultura.

 

Imágenes de la investigación participativa en el proyecto ARCHES

Equipo

 

Helena García Carrizosa es una Investigadora del proyecto ARCHES. Helena trabaja cerca en conjunto con los diferentes museos y con los grupos participativos para probar y evaluar las diferentes tecnologías. Al ser ella misma discapacitada, tiene una experiencia personal de primera mano de los obstáculos y dificultades a los que se enfrentan las personas con deficiencias sensoriales en el día a día, especialmente en el sector de los museos. Anteriormente, Helena trabajó en diferentes museos y galerías internacionales, como el Peggy Guggenheim Collection de Venecia, la National Gallery de Londres y el Völkerkunde Museum de Hamburgo. Tiene dos maestrías, una en Historia del Arte, Cultura Renacentista y Curaduría del Warburg Institute de Londres y la otra en Educación en Museos y Galerías del UCL-Instituto de Educación.

Jara Díaz Alberola es Responsable del proyecto ARCHES en el Museo Lázaro Galdiano desde 2016. Estudió Historia del Arte en la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) y Máster en Art Museum and Gallery Studies en la University of Leicester en Inglaterra. Especialista en educación por la Universitat de Valencia y la Universidad Complutense y en Gestión Cultural por la UOC. Tiene más de diez años de experiencia como educadora de museos y gestora cultural. Ha trabajado para diversas instituciones en España y Reino Unido como Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow y CaixaForum. Ha coordinado diversos proyectos culturales, sociales y educativos y ha impartido numerosos cursos y conferencias sobre arte, educación y accesibilidad.

Elena Aparicio Mainar ha sido coordinadora de Accesibilidad del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, del Museo Picasso Málaga y actualmente coordina el proyecto ARCHES en el Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Es historiadora del arte por la Universitat Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona, museóloga y gestora cultural por la Universitat de Barcelona, especialista en educación de museos por instituciones como el MoMA de Nueva York o el Museum of Fine Arts de Boston (MFA) y en accesibilidad educativa y cultural por la UNIA y diversas entidades especializadas, como Fundación ONCE o Cooperativa Altavoz. Desde 1995 ha creado programas curatoriales, educativos y sociales donde se promueve la participación activa y la inclusión efectiva a través del arte en proyectos y entidades nacionales e internacionales.

Felicitas Sisinni es educadora del Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, donde coordina el grupo de investigación del proyecto ARCHES. Tras finalizar sus estudios de Periodismo e Historia del Arte en Madrid, realizó un máster en Educación en Museos en el Institute of Education (UCL) de Londres. Ha trabajado como educadora y gestora cultural en diferentes instituciones culturales de Europa y África, y continúa investigando sobre la creación de experiencias significativas para aumentar el acceso y la inclusión. Actualmente está en baja por maternidad y regresará en septiembre.

Moritz Neumüller (Linz, Austria, 1972) vive y trabaja como comisario independiente en Barcelona. Se ha licenciado en dos carreras, Historia del Arte y Economía, y tiene un doctorado interdisciplinar sobre nuevos medios de la Universidad de Viena. Ha trabajado para instituciones como el Museum of Modern Art en Nueva York, y fue ahí donde vio por primera vez una Touch Tour para visitantes invidentes. Diez años más tarde, Neumüller creó sus propios proyectos para abrir el arte a un amplio público, incluyendo las personas con deficiencias sensoriales y cognitivas. Este empeño en facilitar el acceso a la cultura y el conocimiento para todos se refleja en la iniciativa ArteConTacto, y el proyecto MUSEUM FOR ALL. Desde 2016, es director de comunicación del proyecto ARCHES.

What does it mean to decolonize a museum?

BY ELISA SHOENBERGER
Reposted from MuseumNext

In the past few years, museums across the US, Europe, and Australia are trying to tackle the challenge of decolonizing their institutions. However, the very meaning of decolonizing is being debated. The Washington Post defines it as “a process that institutions undergo to expand the perspectives they portray beyond those of the dominant cultural group, particularly white colonizers.” Whereas, the Abbe Museum in Maine take a stronger approach by incorporating it into their Strategic plan and defining it as “at a minimum, sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture.”

Museums are taking on this important work to try to make their museums reflect the diversity and the voices of the people within their collections and around them. Many museums have legacies rooted in colonialism; their collections were from wealthy donors who benefited from empires. For example, Sir Hans Sloane, doctor and collector, funded his enormous collection that would be the foundation of the British Museum with earnings from his wife’s slave plantations in Jamaica. Moreover, his collection profited from the reach of the British Empire where collectors and travelers all over the world “acquired” items for him. Many collectors saw their efforts as a way to preserve the past, believing that the indigenous communities would fade into obscurity. And then there’s the controversies of how items were acquired into collections, such as the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum, London; and Zodiac of Dendera in the Louvre, Paris.

Part of the issue is how museums treat indigenous and other minorities in their collections. In his MuseumNext talk, Jérémie Michael McGowan, director of Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Tromsø, Norway, explained that indigenous works tended to be in ethnographic museums, not art museums. This distinction helps to perpetuate the idea that these cultures are no longer living and continuing their traditions. These community engagements work to fight against that sentiment and try to show the resiliency of cultures and traditions.

Image: Shutterstock – Field Museum in Chicago

For example, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has invited several Native American artists to present their work in their Native American galleries including Bunky Echo-Hawk and Chris Pappan. Pappan, a Chicago based artist of Osage, Kaw, Cheyenne River Sioux and mixed European descent, created a series of paintings, drawings and overlays in the Field’s Native North American Hall to contextualize and reconsider the objects in the Hall, which has not changed since 1950. In a press release, the Field will now be renovating the hall and work with “an advisory committee of scholars and museum professionals from across the country and from diverse tribes and nations” to reopen the Hall in 2021.

Some museums are developing strategic plans to redevelop their conception of their collection and auditing the institutions as a whole. The Australian Museum in Sydney, led by Frank Howarth, re-evaluated its own relationship to its objects and changed their view of the Museum as the owner of objects to “custodians of those collections, with an obligation to the peoples who created the objects and stories, and to their descendants.” They are in the midst of a 10-year Indigenous Roadmap Project. Part of the roadmap has brought in leaders to review the collections. Notably, the Australian Museum brought in Chief Jerry Taki, a Ni-Vanuatu leader, to review the Vanuatu collections and helped the museum understand the diversity of arrowheads, something that the museum never knew before. This is merely one example of how these efforts benefits museum and indigenous people alike.

Other museums are working with local indigenous communities to determine respectful treatment of human remains and objects. In 2017, the San Diego Museum of Man instituted a policy to ask permission from indigenous communities about the treatment of 5,000 to 8,000 human remains in their collection. The Canadian Museum of History established the Human Remains Policy in 1991 “to respond to requests from communities for repatriation.” Since then the policy has evolved to include both human remains and objects and have resulted in the return of human remains to First Nations in Canada as well as artifacts, such as wampum and medicine bundles to their respective communities.

However, these efforts are only a part of the large project of decolonization. Artist and curator Shaheen Kasmani explains in her MuseumNext presentation “How Can We Decolonize Museums” that decolonization efforts may fail and sometimes help replicate colonial behaviors and attitudes. She aptly notes that decolonization is not the same as diversity. She instead posits that decolonization is “the upfront challenge of white supremacy, de-centers the Eurocentric view, values narrative of that has been made Other. It dismantles systems of thoughts [that places] the straight white man as standard.” It’s not just about inviting indigenous and other marginalized people into the museum to help the institution improve its exhibitions; it’s an overhauling the entire system. Otherwise, museums are merely replicating systems of colonialism, exploiting people of color for their emotional and intellectual labor within their institutions without a corollary in respect and power.

For her and many other culture workers, this overhaul starts with the decision-makers. Who are the people who make the decisions about the exhibitions? What is shown in the exhibitions? How is the story told? Do the decision-makers have a decolonial mindset? Are they aware of their own biases? Brooklyn Museum received a lot of criticism last year for hiring a white curator for an exhibit on African Art. Sara Wajid, head of engagement at Museum of London, in her MuseumNext talk pointed out the lack of people of color as heads of permanent exhibitions.

The Past is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire’ display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The prohibitive cost of museums also is a significant factor in limiting museums to particular audiences. Kasmani noted that exhibitions and museums can be quite expensive and not affordable to many segments of society. The cost to bring an entire family as well can limit people’s abilities to experience these cultural institutions. Steve Nelson, a professor of African and African American Art at UCLA, explains in a Washington Post article that “Museums are perceived as being for people of privilege. It starts early.” This perception could help stymie the pipeline of people in color in museum jobs.

In addition to decision-making and cost, the text and language of the exhibition are another important factor in the decolonization process. The wall text in exhibitions are perceived as neutral, authoritative narratives of the objects displayed. But Kasmani explains, “Those panels on the walls of your museum are a political act.” The words used are important for everyone’s understanding of material presented; the words chosen will impact how people understand the exhibit. She explains that when words like “racist” and “exoticized” are removed and words like “concentration camp” changed into “internment camp” it serves to invalidate people’s experiences and histories.

Moreover, the choice of the language for text is also a political act. What language is used in the text will also create barriers or tear them down depending on how it is used. Some institutions around the world are beginning to provide text in other languages than the dominant one. For instance, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had Spanish language text in their 2016 exhibition about Mexican muralists as a way to better connect with Spanish-speaking museum goers. In another example, McGowan noted that Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum used the Sámi language in texts on a special museum exhibition/performance that took place in 2017.

In addition to how objects end up at their museums, the project of decolonization should also consider what is collected and what stories can be told from those objects. Like wall text, collections are political. In her talk, Wajid describes how her attempts for an exhibition about the Opium War at the National Maritime Museum was limited because the museum did not collect items relevant to that topic, such as objects from the Chinese point of view. Instead, she noted, they had lots of items from the East India Company. The museum’s ability to make exhibitions that fought against the dominant narrative was hampered by what the museum had previously collected under this prevailing mindset.

However, there are institutions that have presented intriguing alternatives to prevailing models and presented new ideas for decolonization. In McGowan’s MuseumNext talk, he explains how in 2017, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum transformed into Sámi Dáiddamusea within two months from start to finish. This “museum performance” as he terms it, resulted in an “total and instant makeover that included amongst other things, the display of another collection of art entirely and the use of Sámi language for both exhibition texts and general signage” and much more. They worked with Sámi community to establish trust and common ground in this undertaking. But he hastens to explain that this museum was a “fictional manifestation of the as yet unrealized art museum that has long been the desire of the Sámi artistic community museum sector and society at large.” The new museum/exhibition was not a permanent change. Ultimately, he concludes that the experience showed that “perhaps one of the healthiest things many museums can do in response to the very demands of the present is to intentionally embrace an alternative condition in which they do not exist or have been replaced by another institution entirely…”

Since the exhibition, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum has continued in this project to review the institution as a whole by reviewing their mission statement, staffing and recruitment policies, analyzing the makeup of their board, and much more. Abbe Museum’s strategic plan of decolonization aptly distinguishes between what the visitors will see and what will take place behind the scenes. For visitors, Abbe Museum explains, “The principles of decolonization inform how the Abbe builds, understands, and exhibits its collections. They affect who shapes and tells the stories in its galleries and programs. Decolonization is part of the training of all staff, including those who greet and educate visitors, and even determines what is sold in the gallery stores.” Behind the scenes, the museum will revamp its values, “including consultative and collaborative decision-making processes that include Native people at every level of decision-making. This strategic plan calls for development of new models of archaeological and other research, and the Museum’s commitment to green practices reflects the Native values of protecting the resources of the earth.”

All in all, the decolonizing project will have starts and stops as each museum, cultural worker and audiences have difficult conversations and reflections about the meaning of museums and who the institutions are intended to serve. New models of decolonization will continue to arise and give inspiration to other institutions struggling to figure out how to change their own institutions. But open and true dialogue will remain an integral point with all members of communities. Wajid explains that “real talk” will happen; hard conversations will be had about power and authority. And that’s important. Former director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Olga Viso says it best in an Op-Ed for the New York Times in 2018, “If museums want to continue to have a place, they must stop seeing activists as antagonists. They must position themselves as learning communities, not impenetrable centers of self-validating authority.”

Image: Birmingham and the British Empire’ display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

CONFERENCE The Museum for All People: April 2-5, 2019

The Museum for All People:

Art, Accessibility and Social Inclusion

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE, Madrid, April 2-5, 2019

The MUSACCES Consortium (UCM-UNED-AUM) cordially invites you to participate in the International Conference «The Museum for all people: art, accessibility and social inclusion», that will be held on April 2-5, 2019, in the city of Madrid.

The conference aims to provide a forum for exchange and debate among museum managers, professors, researchers, artists, students and cultural practitioners regarding improving access in art museums to all people, regardless of any specific needs they may have.

Participation in the conference will be open to contributions via a Call for papers. Moreover, the conference will have breakup sessions, specific seminars, concurrent activities and will feature internationally renowned speakers.

This International Conference seeks to become a forum for reflection on the conceptual problems in the definition of the museum for all. We are confident that the overlap between intellectual interdisciplinary borders (art history, cultural heritage, museology, art criticism, aesthetics, communication, education, tourism, technology, preservation and restoration, etc.) will allow us to propose strategies for cultural action devised to expand accessibility in the museum to all people.

Key Dates

15
February 2019

abstract submission
deadline

18
February 2019

abstracts acceptance notification

28
February 2019

early registration
deadline

2
April 2019

opening ceremony

State of Museum Access 2018 (Repost)

State of Museum Access 2018: does your museum website welcome and inform disabled visitors?

The State of Museum Access 2018 comprises guidance to help museums create or review the information that they provide online, in order to:

  • welcome potential visitors with disabilities
  • inform visitors of any barriers to access at the museum
  • reassure visitors that the museum has worked or is actively working to remove them

Our audit of the websites of UK accredited museums found that one in five (19%) failed to provide any access information online. While this indicates an improvement from 2016 when the figure was 27%, our research also revealed that the level of detail provided is generally very poor. The majority of museums provide basic information for people with mobility impairment only; which does not address the access needs of millions of UK citizens and potential visitors, their families and friends.

To support museums to become more inclusive to all visitors the State of Museum Access 2018 contains comprehensive guidelines on: the types of access information a museum should provide; how to communicate with potential disabled visitors; providing information in a range of accessible formats; developing staff disability awareness; and providing detailed information about how to reach the museum.

Five audience groups are addressed within the report – autistic people and people with a learning disability, blind and partially sighted people, D/deaf and hard of hearing people, people with dementia, people with mobility impairments – which together form a large proportion of disabled people. For each audience group we recommend the particular information, resources, facilities and accessible events that a museum can provide to welcome and support them.

Furthermore there are tips on setting up an access panel or disability advisory group, which can help a museum to best address visitor needs when developing both on site and online provision.

Finally, we present an access showcase, celebrating good practice at museums across the UK, with links to over 50 organisations’ websites, which we hope will inform and inspire.

We encourage museums to make the Museum Access Pledge (#MuseumAccessPledge) to close the disability engagement gap, and ensure everyone is welcome at the UK’s museums, galleries and heritage sites.


‘We are a museum that aims to provide access for all visitors and welcome the publication of the State of Museum Access 2018 report. The greatest barrier for disabled people visiting our cultural institutions is the lack of relevant access information on facilities and services. This report gives practical guidance on how to provide information which will greatly benefit organisations in becoming more accessible and enabling disabled people to embrace our cultural institutions.’ Barry Ginley, Equality and Access Adviser, Victoria & Albert Museum

‘Accentuate fully supports the launch of this important report.  Through our work with the History of Place project we have collaborated with a range of Museums as we believe that deaf and disabled people have a right to access heritage and culture. This report gives an excellent overview of what is working well in the sector as well as practical advice and guidance so museums and heritage sites can improve their offer.  By working together we can ensure more deaf and disabled people have better access to our shared heritage.’ Esther Fox, Head of Accentuate Programme, Screen South

The Disability Co-operative Network for Museums warmly welcomes the State of Museum Access 2018 report. We commend each and every museum and heritage organisation who like us and our colleagues are working collaboratively in creating inclusive practice to widen engagement with their history and heritage. At this present time with reduction in staff and funding, it’s critical that museums and the sector look for opportunity to extend engagement and work together. Becki Morris, Lead of DCN


State of Museum Access 2018 is available to download in PDF and Large Print format (text-only) at the end of this page.

Notes for editors

The report authors are:

  • Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, VocalEyes
  • Molly Bretton, Access Manager, Royal Academy
  • Richard France, Subtitling Services Manager, Stagetext
  • Anna Fineman, Museum and Heritage Programme Manager, VocalEyes
  • Claire Madge, Founder, Autism in Museums
  • Melanie Sharpe, Chief Executive, Stagetext

For enquiries about the report, please contact Matthew Cock (matthew@vocaleyes.co.uk or 020 7375 1043) in the first instance.

VocalEyes

VocalEyes believes that blind and partially sighted people have an equal right to experience and enjoy arts and culture. Founded in 1998, VocalEyes’ audio describers and trainers work with theatres and museums across the UK to improve access to their performances, events, exhibitions and venues. VocalEyes is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England. VocalEyes’ museum programme is also generously supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Stagetext (stagetext.org)

Stagetext is a registered charity which provides captioning and live subtitling services to theatres, museums and other arts venues to make their activities accessible to people who are d/Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. Established in 2000, Stagetext are committed to improving access to the performing arts for all deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. Stagetext is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.

Autism in Museums (autisminmuseums.com)

Autism in Museums is an initiative to raise awareness of accessibility for all in museums. It has been created by Claire Madge who had been sharing autism in museums best practice and events
on her blog Tincture of Museum since 2012.

Image: Colourful sensory backpacks available to borrow for free for autistic children and young people at the National Museum of Scotland.

The Mendoza Review of museums in England

Have a look at the “The Mendoza Review: an independent review of museums in England”. This Review of the museums sector is the first to be conducted in more than 10 years. Whilst it focuses primarily on the 1,312 Arts Council England (ACE)-Accredited museums, it does consider the wider context of the sector, which encompasses approximately 2,600 museums in England. In total, this covers a vast array of museums that vary in governance, size, the nature of their collections, and their particular place in the cultural environment of our country.

It has been conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the sector, the issues it faces, and how it can be best supported by government. In particular it looks at the increase and diversification of audiences; the role museums play in developing local communities and placemaking; how museums support soft power; and, crucially, how government might help to create a resilient sector. For the first time, this Review also shows the full amount of public funding received by the sector. Over the last 10 years, we have determined that an average of £844m per year has been invested from 11 government sources, comprising multiple funding streams. Including tax measures, this funding has remained fairly flat between 2007/08 and 2016/17, although reduced in real terms.

The review identifies nine priorities for museums today, and sets out how DCMS and its Arm’s Length Bodies will work better together to create and fund an environment in which they can flourish. It also sets out what individual museums and institutions can do – either by themselves or in partnership with others – to thrive and drive improvement for the sector overall. In this report, we aim to focus on these nine areas through each of the recommendations we make. Those recommendations will be taken forward in an Action Plan produced by ACE, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), national museums and DCMS. Adapting to today’s funding environment is the most important challenge facing museums today. Over the last 10 years, although nominally maintained, funding overall has reduced by 13% in real terms, with some museums seeing larger cuts; there have also been a small number of closures over the period. Local authorities (LAs) have been particularly affected and, in response, there is an increasing move to trusts and other new governance structures. Many museums have successfully changed business models; how they programme for audiences to generate income and provide value for money; and other elements of their service.

Broadly speaking, though, museums do need to increase and diversify their income further. This will enable them to build sustainable and resilient models. At the same time, the use of existing public funding needs to be smarter to help support these objectives. Public funding is ultimately finite. Organisations like ACE and HLF, which are the key sector funders, should streamline their funding to make it easier for museums to access the support they need and to ensure that museums that would benefit the most, in the long term, have ready access.Growing and diversifying audiences reflects the important purpose of museums in engaging people and communities. Over half of the adult population now visits museums – up from around two in five a decade ago – a significant achievement. But those audiences are still less likely to be representative of the very young or very old, ethnic minorities, disabled, or lower socio-economic backgrounds. There is no complacency in the sector – museums are increasingly reaching out to their communities to provide exhibitions that welcome people. These include, for example, building more sophisticated partnerships to co-produce exhibitions; using new technology to collect and analyse visitor data; and gathering other evidence to understand how best to serve their visitors. I

n many ways, national museums have spearheaded these approaches, and provided support to museums outside London to improve access all over the country. This work needs to continue and develop as further best-practice techniques are established and economies of scale established. Dynamic collections curation and management are the fundamental point of museums – to protect and take care of the collections they hold, and to make them accessible to the public, not just physically, but meaningfully as well. This is not without its challenges: buildings maintenance backlogs (including insufficient storage) are a common issue, as is less available curatorial time and expertise, and the ongoing need for a sensible approach to both growing and rationalising collections. There are good examples of where sharing skills and infrastructure can help to overcome these issues; this is a particular area where a strategic framework for how the national museums’ work with the rest of the sector will benefit museums across the country. Contributing to placemaking and local priorities helps museums play a part in their communities and in local decision-making, as well as leveraging investment in culture to also deliver on priorities such as health and wellbeing.

There is increasing evidence to show that cultural institutions contribute a great deal to the local economy, to the wellbeing and education of its residents, and to attracting tourists and businesses to the area. Museums are especially able to do this because of their position as a civic space and their collections, which connect people to place. To encourage this work it is important that museums have and use consistent, statistically robust methods to measure economic and social impact. Delivering cultural education has benefits for schoolchildren as well as helping to make the adult museum audiences of the future. Museums can and do support pedagogy, enhancing the theory and practice of formal learning and the curriculum, as well as engaging children with development – particularly around their social history and place in the world. Developing leaders with appropriate skills and diversifying the workforce are long-standing concerns of the museums sector; they must be tackled successfully if museums are to adapt to reduced public funding and encourage more diverse audiences.

The skills needed for a museums career are changing, with greater emphasis now on flexibility and collaboration, business and digital, commercial, marketing and fundraising. Volunteers are still of crucial importance in keeping museums running, although routes to entry into the sector need to expand to offer greater opportunities to a wider range of people, particularly reflecting the make-up of the local communities they serve. Digital capacity and innovation is an area where museums have been slower than other arts and cultural sectors to develop. Beginning with senior leadership, but encompassing upskilling people in numerous roles, there is a need for greater understanding of the wide potential of digital in museums. Examples include display and interpretation, collections, communications, data – and the need for a strategic approach to embedding tools and technologies into every aspect of museums’ work. Working internationally is of particular importance as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. EU Exit brings challenges around staff resources, loans/movement of objects and tours, as well as funding. It also offers opportunities to refresh and develop further international partnerships, look and work globally, and involve smaller museums that may not have had the confidence or encouragement to find their place in the world.

Full Report for download from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Fact sheet on equality and accessibility in Finnish cultural policy

Cupore, a Center for Cultural Policy Research, maintained by the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research, has published a fact sheet on equality and accessibility in Finnish cultural policy.
The fact sheet offers suggestions on how to improve equality and accessibility in Finnish cultural policy as well as a brief summary of the key policy documents and terminology of the subject.
The fact sheet is also available both in Finnish and Swedish and can be downloaded from Cupore website.
Emmi Lahtinen, Olli Jakonen & Sakarias Sokka. 2017. Equality and Accessibility in Finnish Cultural Policy. Fact sheet. Center for Cultural Policy Research Cupore. Translation: Susan Heiskanen & Cupore team.
Fact sheet on equality and accessibility in Finnish cultural policy here.
More information:
Communications officer Anu Oinaala, anu.oinaala@cupore.fi

ARCHES Project

ARCHES is a European project involving people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition and communication. Funded by the H2020 program, it aims to improve access to Museums and other Cultural Heritage Sites. ARCHES stands for Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems. The Consoritum consists of museums, technology companies, universities and experts in making culture more accessible to everybody. Together, these partners will develop online resources, software applications and multisensory technologies.

The Open University and Bath University are leading the research for ARCHES. In the first year the participatory research groups will be exploring the museum and coming up with ideas for new technologies and activities. Each week there will be different activities within the museum. Together with the participants, the researchers will find the best ways to identify, capture and record their experiences and views. They will use cameras, sound recorders, video cameras, interviews, questionnaires, note taking, drawings, smart phones, tablets and different types of software.

In the second year the technological partners will be testing and redeveloping those technologies. In the third year, the consortium will be checking the new technologies are ready to use for other museums.

More details at the ARCHES Website, Facebook and Twitter.

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ARCHES has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 693229.

 

Stats on Museum Internships by Jim Richardson

Repost from https://www.museumnext.com/2017/07/stats-on-museum-internships/

Eye Opening Stats on Museum Internships

Internships offer a valuable way for young people interested in working in museums to learn more about the opportunities that the sector offers them. In a sought-after profession it seems almost expected that even the most junior applicant will have some experience and internships help to provide this.

We asked the MuseumNext community for their experiences of internships and found that 59% of the museum professionals questioned had done internships before starting work. These individuals felt that being interns had helped their careers, with 39% describing it as very useful.

The time spent as interns varied widely, but 25% of those who had undertaken an internships in a museum had done so for over 12 months, with just 4% spending doing so for less than a month.

A staggering 48% of these people received no pay for their work as interns, with only 8% receiving a living wage.

Having looked at their experience as interns, we now asked them about current practice in the museums they worked in.

88% of those responding to our survey said that their museum offered internships. The renumeration for these internships mirrors the experience of those currently working in museums with 53% receiving no pay for their work.

We also dug further, asking museum professionals for their views on internships.

‘They should always be paid! Unpaid internships perpetuate a lack of diversity in the field because only some folks can afford to work for free’.

‘Worth it for the experience, but tend to only be available to those with money behind them’

‘I got my job from my internship’

‘They’re unfair but necessary in the sector. They favour wealthy people whose parents can afford to help them financially’

‘No pay was an issue for me. Although individual staff made me feel welcome and valued, the lack of financial support was financially challenging. For many the lack of pay would have acted as a barrier into gaining experience into the sector.’

‘They are far from ideal, but an unfortunate reality of our current system’

‘Our current approach is to offer flexibility to allow interns to take on paid work around the internship, and to limit the length of internships to a few weeks. We also ensure there is a learning and development plan for each intern, so that the internship is tailored to their training needs,  and provide training and mentoring as required. We are seeking funding to allow us to provide a living wage in future.’

‘I completed several internships throughout my education. Every one of them useful to my career only because of the great leadership that guided and mentored me. They made my time at those institutions well worth it, fun, and educational. I can’t stress enough how important internships are to young aspiring museum professionals.’

‘Our interns receive minimum wage, which is set in the United States at $7.25/hour unless a state chooses to pay more, which mine does not. Additionally of all our interns are full-time students at the university where I work, so the liveable wage is tough to answer since the internship pay is not presumably their only means of financial support.’

‘Our industry needs to drastically change it’s reliance on unpaid labor. We need to value our interns appropriately.’

Many comments echo’d the points in our recent piece on the cost of internships to the museum sector. Internships do provide an excellent opportunity for those who can afford them, but this restricts who works in museums.

My fear is that by showing how widespread the practice of interns working for long periods without pay is, this may provide an excuse for others to do the same. But if we want museums to have a positive impact on society, we need to consider how internships can be reformed to be more inclusive and less exploitative.

I think that there is that desire, but how do move towards towards fair paid for interns when funding is limited?

– A note on our research. 420 museum professionals took part in this survey on July 10th 2017, with the majority of these being in Europe and the United States. Participants were recruited from our MuseumNext mailing list and posts on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked with museums for over 20 years, with 16 years of that leading a creative / digital agency working in the museum space. Jim now splits his time between running MuseumNext and consulting on tech and innovation in the cultural space.

Art Museum Hires Neuroscientist. Repost

This Art Museum Hired a Neuroscientist to Change the Way We Look at Art

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

From the late 16th to the early 20th century, the salon-style hang was the predominant display convention across Europe. But hanging paintings like this—crammed cheek to jowl in a gallery space—has since fallen out of favor, in part because it tends to prevent viewers from concentrating on a single work.

But why, exactly? The reason may have something to do with the circuitry of the human brain—which is why at least one museum is branching out and recruiting a neuroscientist to join its team.  “On a behavioral level, it can be distracting to walk into a room and have tons of things to look at,” said Dr. Tedi Asher, who earlier this year joined the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, for a one-year appointment as Neuroscience Researcher. “At the level of neurological activation, each painting will be presented less strongly.”

I met with Asher at her office, where the walls are decorated with brain-themed cartoons and diagrams, including a jumbo-sized image of Purkinje cells in a mouse cerebellum. To corroborate her claim, Asher invoked the theory of sensory suppression, which holds that a barrage of sensory stimuli—such as the salon-style hang—deadens the optical-neurological apparatus of the viewer.

She illustrated the point by pointing to her smartphone and a plastic pen. “If you have multiple objects in the same view, you’re going to have some neurons that respond to the phone and other neurons that respond to the pen,” she said. “It’s been shown that the neurons that respond to one are going to actively suppress the neurons that respond to the other. The representation of the objects in the brain seems to be weakened by having multiple objects.”

The appointment of Asher is part of a broader campaign by Dan Monroe, the museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, to deploy neuroscience in the service of exhibition design.

Under his leadership, this mid-sized museum north of Boston, which is best known for its extensive holdings in Asian and maritime art, has already gained national attention for convention-busting exhibitions. At the entrance to “Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age,” visitors were greeted by cylinders of spices—cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns—that promoted more lasting memories by engaging multiple senses. For “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture,” a troupe of live dancers confounded viewer’s expectations of the white cube.

Hiring Asher in May was the next step in pushing forward the Peabody’s mission. Over the next year, she’ll meet regularly with an advisory panel of neuroscientists, and will ultimately produce a publication that crystallizes her findings.

“Anecdotally, we’re all familiar with the idea that a satisfying experience has this delicate balance of meeting and violating our expectations,” Asher said. “In the context of exhibition design, how can we surprise people in a way that won’t be jarring but will help viewers make sense of what they have seen? Something that is unexpected takes longer to detect—but it also makes a more lasting imprint.” At the Peabody Essex, Asher will apply the principles of neuroaesthetics—the synthesis of neuroscience and aesthetics—to a reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection that will unfold over the next five years. Since arriving at the museum, she has been an advocate for the gallery-goer’s brain, making the case for display conventions that sidestep outmoded curatorial strategies (overloaded walls, indigestible wall text).

How the White Cube Came to Dominate the Art World

One idea that she is developing are rest areas, or “palate cleansers,” that will allow visitors a respite from sensory stimulation, much like the intermission in a play.

The implicit aim of the museum’s neuroscience initiative, made possible by a $130,000 grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation, is to boost the institution’s relevance at a time of declining attendance across the museum landscape. A 2015 study by the National Endowment for the Arts presented a startling number: Only 21 percent of adults in the United States visited a museum or gallery in 2012, a drop of 5.5 percent from 2002. While the Peabody Essex Museum has defied this trend—over the same period, attendance at the museum has risen steadily—it is nonetheless attuned to the plight of the museum sector as a whole.

“The loss of attendance leaves one to ask, ‘What are the dynamics that are causing this?’” said Monroe. “The strategies and practices that we, as a field, continue to employ are not very effective and, in my view, never will be—they do not recognize the way that people’s brains works.

“That said, we have to all recognize that neuroscience is in its infancy. Nobody understands, for example, how consciousness is created or even what it is.…Ultimately, the deciding factor will be whether or not we’re able to demonstrate that, by better understanding some key elements of the way our brains work, we can create experiences that more people find meaningful and impactful.”

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

Asher arrived at the Peabody Essex Museum almost by happenstance, dashing off a cover letter to the museum when an advertisement for the position was circulated on an internal listserv. Raised in Washington, D.C., she remembers “falling over” after seeing Claude Monet’s haystacks at the Art Institute of Chicago but ultimately dedicated herself to the sciences, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from Swarthmore College and later a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences program, where she investigated the linkage between aggression in male mice and serotonin-producing neurons. Her role at the Peabody Essex Museum is that of a benign disruptor, evaluating the format of forthcoming exhibitions in the context of neural pathways. “People seem to appreciate that I’m a little bit of an outsider,” she said.

Having a scientist on staff might be a new development, but the machinery of vision—and the relationship between sensation and perception—has vexed art lovers for millennia. In Art and Illusion (1960), Ernst Gombrich tells of a Pythagorean sage who, upon considering the case of a cloud that resembles a centaur or stag antelope, surmised that perception is a creative act on the part of the beholder. Or, as Gombrich put it: “What we read into these accidental shapes depends on our capacity to recognize in them things or images we find stored in our minds.” Thus, an image is not an index of the material world but a function of the brain.

“The beholder’s share, as it’s known, is a classic problem in art history,” Eric Kandel told me. He’s a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist at Columbia University and author of Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures (2016). “What’s going on in the beholder’s head when he looks at a work of art? This is an ongoing area of research. It’s still in its early stages but potentially quite interesting and, I think, quite important.”

In recent years, Kandel has emerged as an evangelist for interdisciplinary inquiry, taking it upon himself to mend the schism between art and science “by focusing on a common point at which the two cultures can meet and influence each other,” as he writes at the beginning of his book. Nevertheless, some art historians are skeptical of neuroaesthetics, which may at times slip into “a spurious reduction of art to the science of the brain,” as Jonathan Gilmore, currently an Assistant Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Baruch College, wrote in 2006.

  • Portrait of Tedi Asher. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

“Some art historians are enthusiastic [about neuroaesthetics], and others think it’s ridiculous,” said Kandel. “They say, ‘What does it have to offer? It demeans art to think that it has a biological explanation.’ But they should not worry: Neuroscience is not going to replace an art-historical approach to art; it’s going to supplement and enrich it.

“This is a very interesting experiment on the part of [the Peabody Essex Museum],” Kandel continued. “One of the things that strikes me with many current exhibitions is that they’re too damn large! It’s absolutely exhausting to go through them.”

For her part, Asher is sensitive to the fact that her appointment is a landmark event—but she’s also eager to focus on the business at hand. The challenge before her is to apply lessons from carefully designed experiments in a laboratory setting to the business of running an art museum with more than 300 personnel and an operating budget of $30 million. “The way [my colleagues here] talk about things feels much less structured than in the science world, where it is much more about connecting the dots,” she said. “I feel like there is more fluidity to how things are approached in a museum.”

After our interview, we entered the museum to see Anila Quayyum Agha’s All the Flowers Are for Me, an immersive installation in which the white cube has been converted into a light chamber, with a foliate pattern projected on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Encased in a lemon-colored aureole, Asher expounded on the neurological processes at work in our experience of the installation—and the sensation of being caressed by light.

“Your experience of this installation depends on what it reminds you of,” she said. “When you recall a memory, the regions of your cortex that process different senses become activated. So, if you’re looking at an image of a fur coat, you might feel as though you can touch the fur, and that’s because that part of your brain that would process the tactile experience is becoming activated by the memory.”

“But, of course,” she added, “it’s all in your mind.”

—Christopher Snow Hopkins

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-art-museum-hired-neuroscientist-change-way-art