Madeline (@ DIA since 2004) and Karen (Grad student intern from University of Toronto Museum Studies) - Interpretive specialists
Karen is currently taking postcards that visitors write comments on and coding and analyzing this feedback data
Madeline - roles / responsibilities
Develop interpretives - e.g. in-gallery games, flip books, labels.
Collaborate with curators on the "Big Idea" of an exhibit and work on developing the interpretive plan
Don't want technology to stand out or simply deliver encyclopedic data about an artifact. It has to be integrated and purposeful.
Technology should help flesh out an experience, ex: African Masquerade Immersive Video in the African Art galleries. "Displaying masks from African cultures poses a considerable challenge--the masks were never intended for display in a museum; they were made to be danced. The masks in the DIA's collection were created to be worn and danced in culturally, often spiritually, specific ceremonies. Visitors are also often unfamiliar with the aesthetics and ideas behind African masks. This video is meant to help visitors imagine the original context for the masks-the beating drums, the swirling bodies, and the involvement of the community. The video brings the works of art to life and helps reveal the reasons they were made--to be used in specific contexts for distinct purposes."
Scanned books - re-create a book. Viewers can use a touch screen to flip through its pages.Rivera PDA - a computer program based in a handheld device. "Visitors are able to walk around in Rivera Court as they hold the MMT, wear headphones, and interact with the program through the touchscreen. Visual and audio cues alert the user to look for these images. The overall program is designed to give visitors a great deal of choice in how they explore the murals. The MMT includes five linear tours that trace an important aspect of the murals' content and development ("Then and now", imagery, blending of Western and Indiginous art traditions, making the murals, rivera's message)."
Accessibility & Interpretive strategies
What makes a good visitor experience? @ most basic level- are there rest areas? Places to sit & take in the art?
Tone of interpretive texts (e.g. wall panels, descriptive PDA tours, labels) take the voice of a friendly, non-academic expert. Want to avoid writing for a specific grade level (e.g. Grade 8, as they do at the AGO) - instead they use more familiar language instead of domain-specific words. This approach is informed by visitor research.
How to you cater to visitors who have expert knowledge? Assumption is that if they want more knowledge, they should know how to get it. For those who want to know more about the exhibition's display strategy, there are docents and interpretive volunteers. Interpretation is not something for experts - they can make an appointment with the curator.
There's been talk of using interpretives that can be touched (Madeline shows me some prototypes of reliefs) but budget cuts have ended the possibility of using touch models, raised line drawings, material samples. DIA is in the process of doing a descriptive audio tour. They're attracted to a descriptive toor because it can be used by anyone.
Other exhibition design a11y strategies - design displays so they meet Americans w/ Disability Act requirements. Ex: don't use high display cases. The middle of a painting must be hung so it is 60" of the ground. This also depends on the nature of the artifact. Ex: Buddha statue is meant to be displayed high off the ground, the visitor is meant to look up at it.
Good history of working productively w/ contractors who develop tech-based interpretives - Pentogram & Acoustiguide
-Interpretive team comes up w/ concept
-Iterative & involves visitor testing