The Multimodal Learning Conference, held at the Metropolitan Museum this past weekend was surprising and illuminating. Opera director Peter Sellars gave a breath-taking keynote address. The artist Kimberley Kelly led us through a serious but delightful salt-tasting activity. Artists, nueroscientists, art historians and educators offered new information and ideas in every session.
The big idea that emerged for me is that we should be aiming to personalize the experience of visiting a museum for every visitor.
The purpose of the conference, organized by Art Beyond Sight, was to focus on ways that museums could and should help blind and disabled visitors truly engage with objects on display.
However, as Peter Sellars eloquently put it, “The giant lie is normalcy!” He continued, and I paraphrase:
Art proves that there is no normal…that there is only the extraordinary…. Disability in our lives – whether in ourselves or in someone we care for – demands patience, and creates a zone of deep attention, a need to slow down, which is what a work of art does too.
If there is no normal, then there’s no one-size-fits-all type of museum visit either. Hence the need to create not just programs, tours and experiences that engage disabled visitors but programs, tours and experiences that can meet the needs of each visitor.
People may have stated this before, but the context of ML conference really brought it home for me.
As a media producer I work with curators, educators, exhibit designers and often visitor services experts to craft content and design ways to create positive user experiences. Personalized technology is available; now we have to design so that visitors can personalize their experience.