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DT:TV Case Studies

Comfort and the museum visitor experience, parts 3-6

Sorry for the delay on this final post! Click here for part 1 of this post. And here for part 2.

As I’ve thought about this workshop, which grew out of a session that Steve Tokar and Beth Katz put together for WMA in Anchorage (2008), I was happy to participate. I think both the museum and the participants got a valuable experience out of the workshop, which allowed them to experience the host museum wearing a number of different visitor personas (hosted by the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego’s Balboa Park).

While we can never truly know what it’s like to have a physical or cognitive challenge that we ourselves aren’t currently experiencing, going through the process of viewing a museum through that lens can be illuminating. Elaine Bentley at Chicago Children’s Museum said it best: “We’re all just a banana peel away from having a disability.” And we all age, people can be with someone with a physical or cognitive challenge, or we can have a temporary disability.

The 8-step process I developed for analyzing visitor experiences addresses comfort in Step 4, seeing it as a critical part of an overall great experience. Comfort sets the stage, allowing visitors to engage and absorb our content. And often, it’s these very comfort items (not finding a bathroom, or needing a drink of water) that are easy to fix but often overlooked by museums. Universal design goes far beyond that, creating environments that work for everyone.

I look forward to seeing how Steve and Beth’s process evolves, and thoroughly enjoyed working with them and Paul Gabriel, our “cognitive challenges” guru, Vivian Haga from MOPA, and Kenshi Westover, our outstanding videographer and editor. I have a couple of articles by Paul Gabriel available here for free download, if you want more on cognitive disabilities and the museum environment. Here’s the video:

If you’re interested in seeing my take on comfort, here’s the link to my recorded class on Step 4.

I look forward to reading your comments on
museum comfort! Where has it supported or hindered a cultural offering you’ve experienced?