Archive for November, 2009

WMA Comfort and Access Workshop, MOPA San Diego, Video Pt 1

November 29, 2009

Thanks to videographer/editor Kenshi Westover and staff videographer Joaquin Ortiz of MOPA, our October 2009 WMA workshop on visitor comfort and access was thoroughly documented on video. We were able to field-test Beth’s idea of workshop participants playing the roles of visitors with either physical disabilities or learning differences. Beth created the role-playing cards for the physical disabilities, and Paul Gabriel created the cards for learning differences. Participants were randomly assigned roles and had about 15 minutes to familiarize themselves with their cards before heading out the museum door to re-enter in the guise of their new personas. Here’s Part 1 of several episodes, edited and produced by Kenshi, documenting the day:


Based on the results of the day, role-playing seems to be an effective method for testing comfort and access.

More video episodes to come.


Visitor Comfort at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego

November 10, 2009

In late October, 2009, the Museum of Photographic Arts in lovely Balboa Park, San Diego graciously hosted a workshop on “Getting Comfortable with Visitor Comfort” as part of the 2009 annual conference of the Western Museums Association. Facilitating the workshop along with Beth and myself were Paul Gabriel, a specialist in learning differences based in San Francisco; Stephanie Weaver, visitor experience consultant extraordinaire and principal of Experienceology; and MOPA Deputy Director Vivian Kung Haga. 


Workshop participants spent an intense half-day delving deeply into the question of what constitutes visitor comfort and access. Their explorations on the museum floor and their reactions were videotaped for later use and analysis, while the museum received an in-depth assessment and set of recommendations. 
Kenshi photgraphing workshoppers


Participants were unanimous in their praise of the MOPA galleries, which are well lit, gracefully proportioned, and simply feel good to be in.

beloved daughters entry

The museum, in the person of Vivian, proved itself delightfully open to constructive criticism — for instance of one problematic aspect of the text for a traveling show:

spanish fainter

It might not be very clear from my photo, but the text in Spanish — on the right — is in a fainter typeface than the English on the left. Perhaps helpful for immediately distinguishing one language from the other, but as several participants pointed out, what might this say, unintentionally, about the status of Spanish in relation to English?

Vivian’s plans include modifying a number of visual elements for greater accessibility and comfort, such as this grey-on-purple text:

grey on purple

The workshop was a great opportunity to not only talk and think about visitor comfort and access in the abstract, but to put thoughts into action in an actual museum.

wendy at stereoscope

Thanks again to Vivian and her staff for opening up their institution to us in so many ways.