Community Involvement: The Key to Access and Inclusion
by John Rae | March 2018
Editor’s Note: In his first seven articles for the OHS Bulletin, John Rae examined a variety of access issues for museums and heritage organizations. In this eighth installment, John offers his impressions from his recent visit to the recently reopened Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
This article first appeared in the March 2018 OHS Bulletin (Issue 206).
On November 17, 2017, the Canada Science and Technology Museum reopened after a three-year closure and $80-million makeover. The fully accessible museum offers visitors access to cherished artifacts in an environment that’s full of colour, sound, and interactive exhibits, showcased in a larger and more modern space— offering a true multisensory experience for all visitors.
“The goal was to make the new museum multisensory,” says Gabrielle Trepanier, the Museum’s Visitor Researcher. “And I am excited that the teams who developed each exhibit fully embraced this multisensory approach.”
A stroll down Artifact Alley features a dazzling array of artifacts, interactive displays, and a stage for participatory science demonstrations!
The Crazy Kitchen—a visitor favourite before the museum closed—is now back as Crazy Kitchen +, with several new activities designed to trick your senses of smell, sound, and sight. Into the Great Outdoors gives visitors the chance to discover new perspectives on how transportation technologies and the great outdoors have shaped Canadian experiences. This exhibition includes a display about technologies created for—and often by—people with physical disabilities to improve access to outdoor recreation activities like kayaking, skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
The Sound By Design area showcases some of the most exciting innovations in sound technology, including a display of touchable music cylinders and music box discs dating back to the early 1900s. Additionally, in a work of sound art that explores the concept of soundscapes, visitors can trigger different sounds as they travel through the space.
Visitors can also explore a range of technologies designed for the body, from smartwatches and spy cameras to pacemakers and pettracking devices, in the Wearable Tech exhibition. And, of course, there are still the four old steam locomotives that were a favourite feature of the old museum, two of which can still be visited. There’s a great photo of me in one of the locomotive cabs featured at the beginning of this article.
As an Exhibition Interpretation Officer, Britt Braaten observed during my visit, “We spend so long working on our exhibitions as drawings, or computer renderings. We try to anticipate the needs of our visitors—including our visitors with disabilities—and create spaces and experiences that will maximize accessibility. But it can be difficult to go from these imaginary visitors walking through a 2D floor plan to real life. Walking around the exhibition with you was valuable for me, in making me confront the implications of the choices that we made in creating the exhibitions—both the successes, and the mistakes. I believe that this experience will have a lasting impact on how I do my job.”
Involving members from the disability community will lead to an even more accessible and inclusive experience for future visitors, and the newly reopened Canada Science and Technology Museum is an enjoyable place for the whole family to experience and learn.
For further information, visit the museum’s website at https://ingeniumcanada.org/scitech.