As virtual access to art collections expands through online walk-throughs and projects like Google’s Open Gallery, museums have long been experimenting within their own halls with ways to accommodate a wider range of visitors, particularly those with disabilities. Historically, museums have been leaders in the field of accessible institutional design, whether through improvised additions or new technology. In a collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Parsons The New School for Design, students in the School of Art, Media, and Technology have focused on how both physical and online resources can optimize the museum experience for people with disabilities.
Working under the Design and Technology masters program and alongside education specialists at the Met, Parsons’ students spent the last semester designing a host of physical and digital tools to not only make museum resources more accessible, but to serve and benefit the public at large. Their work, including apps, website redesigns and wearable tech, will be on display this weekend, marking another development towards increased accessibility and understanding of the arts.
If you’re at the Met this Saturday, December 14, you can see the students’ results on display from 11am - 2pm. Here's a preview of their work:
Choose Your Own Map
This functionality for tablets was designed to make the movement through the Met’s galleries easier for folks with limited mobility. After the patron selects which art they’d like to see and inputs their access-needs (regarding lighting, flooring, seating, etc.), the app creates a custom route map through the museum.
Here’s the creators' description of the app, by students Veronica Black, Minsung Kwak, Joori Lee, Decho Pitukcharoen and Anthony Driscoll: Choose Your Own Map
Eye on Art
One group of students created a wearable technology that would not necessarily enhance the visitor’s experience of the art in the moment, but be used to better understand how humans with varying vision-abilities perceive and interpret art. The design team of Danielle Gorodenzik, Jacob Hernandez, Carmelle Rubinstein and Jackie Simon modified a pair of eyeglass-frames with sensors that tracked eye movements, to see precisely how a visitor scans a piece of art. Particularly designed for museum visitors with cognitive disabilities, the eye-tracking data can be used for a wide spectrum of research, from interaction designers to neuroscientists.
The Accessible Museum project redesigns parts of the Met’s website to be more reflective of actually being in the museum. Students Kamilla Kielbowska, Megan Durlak and Ye Han proposed a series of best practices for the Met’s online experience, with plans to extend these best practices to other creative and design professionals.
Peruse the design proposals here: Accessible Museum
Responding to partially-sighted visitors’ limited experience of the visual arts, another group of students paired interactive, 3-D tactile experiences with the museum’s 2-D pieces. Whether or not they have a disability, users can benefit from the accompanying technology as either an alternate, synaesthetic experience, or as a heightened-resolution version of the original. Designers of the Raised Painting proposal were Rachel Darmody, Sarah Wever, Melanie Bossert and Seungkyun Lee.
Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC -- Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall in the Uris Center for Education
When: Saturday, December 14, 11am - 2pm