Mapping Museums to Unlock Safe, Effective Learning Expereinces

In brainstorming for this project, I found myself looking at the accessibility information for the Smithsonian Institution. My expectations were low, but I was impressed by breadth of resources offered. They included information on mobility, sign language, special programming, and an entire institution accessibility map. While their resources were often hard to navigate and some links were not functional, I was inspired by the format of the accessibility map. For any local or out-of-state visitor, having this critical information on a singular color-coded, map would be so helpful in creating a worry-free experience. While this resource helps visitors feel comfortable getting to the museum, it does little to point them in the direction of content that will fit their group when they are inside.

For my digital project, I am hoping to apply this simple map format to create an interactive map on ArcGIS of digital and general interactive experiences found on the floor of museums in the Smithsonian Institution. Museums are tiring and quite overwhelming – it takes information and planning to create a safe, effective, accessible experience. Therefore, I think this type of resource could be helpful for many audiences – teachers, families with kids, people with cognitive differences, and the average visitor that doesn’t like reading labels but wants to learn!

Currently, each SI museum has its own ‘Plan Your Visit’ page with a brief blurb about educational or interactive programs. However, these often list titles of exhibits with no explaination (and that require a map to find) and are not updated regularly. By using a fluid, digital tool, museums would be able to update these ‘Plan Your Visit’ pages frequently and easily, also including ever-changing daily programs.

Within each map location, I’m hoping to include pictures of the area, age range suggestions, content summary, and links to related resources on the object/experience. I will pick three museums, (one history, one science, one art) to focus on because I don’t think time will allow me to complete this project for the entire Smithsonian. This project will be a success if I am able to make relevant information about the inside of a museum available for those hoping to expereince it in person!

One Reply to “Mapping Museums to Unlock Safe, Effective Learning Expereinces”

  1. Hi Caroline,

    I think the idea of reworking/revising the plan your visit kind of information for some of the Smithsonian Museums is a really interesting idea. I like your thoughts on scoping this to just three of the museums. It’s such a huge institution that you’re very much right that there is a need to scope this down a good bit. I think it may well even work to just focus on one of the museums as a starting point.

    The idea of making this an interactive map with ArcGIS could have a lot of utility to it. With that noted, it is worth also considering what kind of accessibility issues that may well present too. As I understand it, there are some issues with how complex interactive maps render for assistive technologies, in particular on mobile devices where I imagine many of the users of this platform might be working from.

    To that end, it could also be interesting to consider if the first step on this project might be to think about doing some interviews with different kinds of users about how effective the existing accessibility guidance and maps are that Smithsonian provides. I could imagine that you might well run this project as something like user testing of the current set of resources that SI provides and then use that to write up a report on how those resources could be improved to themselves be more accessible.

    Overall, whatever way you approach it, this is a great idea and something that I think there could be a resource that I think a lot of folks would be interested in.

    Best, Trevor

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