Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Universal Design in Museums

The March/April issue of Museum, a publication by the American Association of Museums (AAM), contained an interesting article adapted from an AAM webinar:  "Going Beyond: What does Universal Design Look Like?"
The teaser line reads:  "Without a doubt, universal design and accessibility impact the exhibitions and public programs the museums produce.  But how do you integrate these principles into your exhibits and programs?" This prompted a question on my part:  What exactly is "universal design"?

The article gave a great description, along with seven principles of universal design, or, the "design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design."  The principles include:

simplicity and intuitiveness
tolerance for error
comfort and efficiency
appropriateness to size and space

How museum exhibitions are used is one key to understanding whether they are designed well.  Correspondingly, to reach the broadest possible audience, and to be accessible and inclusive, considering universal design practices remains very important to the overall equation. 

If you are an art major considering museum careers, I recommend checking out the AAM and its numerous resources.  And, if you would like to see print versions of recent issues of Museum, feel free to stop by the Jacobs Gallery.      

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