Paige and I co-chaired a panel discussion called, "Open Doors, Open Minds: Serving Special Audiences on a Budget," in which we spoke about Art at Hand, our tours for visitors who are blind or visually impaired, and Mornings at the Museum for people with Alzheimer's. We also worked with Paula Rais, Director of Community Engagement at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire. She runs Exploring Our Way, an acclaimed program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Paige and I are both "Emerging Museum Professionals" or EMPs; we haven't been in the field very long, and neither of us had been to a professional conference before. Chairing a session was a true honor, and we had been preparing for it for almost nine months!
It began back in February with a call for proposals. This year's conference theme was "Pushing the Envelope: Innovation and the Future of Museums." We knew the special audiences we serve are quite unique; many institutions are just beginning to explore their potential. We also recognized that some of the museums well known for their array of accessible programming, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, have a designated "access coordinator" and corporate sponsors who facilitate and fund their tours. We wanted to show smaller institutions with more limited resources that they can offer meaningful programming to audiences with special needs.
|Mornings at the Museum|
|Art at Hand|
- Assembling a team of advisors who are experts in the audience you are engaging
- Soliciting feedback at every point in the process
- Seeing special tours and programs as stepping stones to individual museum visits; anticipating and encouraging participants to return on their own.