In 2008 the Art Beyond Sight Institute embarked on a series on Museum Accessibility Research and Development Projects. These projects are based on ongoing and expanding partnerships with large metro area art museums, and a growing number of smaller museums, university museums and historic sites. This multi-year series of initiatives includes audience research, development of accessibility materials for the field, development of research and evaluation tools pertaining to access programs, research and documentation of organizational change towards inclusion, and a number of other areas.
An important milestone of this process was Audience Research Study based on focus groups with visitors who are blind or have low vision in six metro areas around the country (2010-2011). This is the first national data of this kind that looks at the needs and preferences of visitors with low vision as well as barriers to full participation in art museums.
The continuation of this audience research is our current Museum Accessibility Study and Development Project (2011-2015) that aims to pilot training and evaluation tools, as well as study development of access programs for blind visitors and the institutional impact of these programs. The project was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Articles, reports, and other research publications:
- Speaking Out on Art And Museums: Study on the Needs and Preferences of Adults who Are Blind or Have Low Vision (Full Report, Appendices,and White Paper).
- Article in the AAM’s Museum magazine: How can my museum help visitors with vision loss? by Nina Levent and Christine Reich.
- Article in the Journal of Museum Education, Summer 2013: Museum Accessibility: Combining Audience Research and Staff Training by Nina Levent and Christine Reich.
- Special Issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly. Museum Experience and Blindness edited by Georgina Kleege, Nina Levent, and Joan Pursley with contributions from our colleagues from the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Fine Art Houston, and Seattle Art Museum.
Museum Experience and Blindness by Nina Levent, Georgina Kleege, Joan Muyskens Pursley.
Leveling the Participatory Field: the Mind’s Eye Program at the Guggenheim Museum by Georgia Krantz.
Emphasizing Observation in a Gallery Program for Blind and Low-Vision Visitors: Art Beyond Sight at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston by Bridget O’Brien Hoyt.
A Docent’s Perspective: From Tour Guide to Advisor by Donnelly Wilburn, Seattle Art Museum docent.
Advisory Board of Researchers, Accessibility Experts and Museum Professionals
Institute for Human Centered Design
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Bridge Multimedia Corporation
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Harvard Medical School
American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Harvard Medical School
David H. Rose
CAST Universal Design for Learning
Museum of Modern Art
University of Texas
AHRC – New York City
Gary L. Talbot
Mass. Bay Transportation Authority
Journalist, Lecturer, Civil Rights Advocate
Past Research was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, MetLife Foundation, and The Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust.
Current Research is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Laura Niles Foundation, and Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation.
Museum Programs in Action: Project Progress
A number of museums in the study have completed the focus grouse, training, and sometimes repeat trainings, and are working on their pilot programs. Image Gallery