I am Debbi Hegstrom and I am in the Museum Guide department of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. I am an Associate Educator working with the docent program.
When we did the public touch tours, open to anyone who came on those Fridays, and we advertised in an arts magazine, I had several staff members stop me in the hall and say, “Wow, that is so cool that you are letting everybody touch and I am going to go to one and do it.” I think that’s partly why we had a great turnout. A lot of it was museum staff to some extent and then the word spread to the public.
I think it has come out of some of the conferences I have gone on to where the whole concept of universal design is really so important. I think any program you have, everyone benefits from the things that you develop. It just made sense to me that you don’t single out a certain population. Everybody loves to touch a work of art. There’s a thrill involved. You use another sense. And so, I thought, “Let’s try it. Let’s see what happens.” We didn’t know how many people would show up. It was a sort of soft-sell advertising. We didn’t make big banners or anything, but just the idea that through word of mouth, I think is mostly how it spread.
We have other touch tours that have been specifically for people who are blind or with low vision. I just wanted to extend that to other people as well.