Improving accessibility: museums and smartcities as inclusive places.Paper
Elisa Orlando, Italy
Improving accessibility: museums and smartcities as inclusive places.
“No museum can grow and be respected which does not each year give additional proofs of its claims to be considered a center of learning.” (G. Brown Goode “The Museum of the Future, Report of the US National Museum” 1889)
The city is an alive space that grows with its citizens, the idea of an open and accessible city is an important condition, cultural before still how structural, to guarantee equal opportunities for all people. The museums and the cities are places of the memory and precious spaces for the collectivity; so designing museum accessibility means to draw up specific plans to increase access to all categories of visitors depending on the historical and cultural value. The museum must be accessible and enjoyable everywhere to the totality of the visitors, offering a careful planning of the spaces and an efficient assistance for every category of audience. According to the principles of Universal Design, accessibility requires a design of environments and products that can be used by anyone without special adaptations and aids, where in the center should be placed man and his needs throughout his life. Today the challenge of the museums, therefore, is to succeed in communicating cultural heritage and to satisfy the requests of the visitors, in particular the weakest categories (policy audience). Museums must turn into places, in which favor the intercultural knowledge, the inclusion, the involvement and the share of the audience. Only improving accessibility to facilities and cultural services and elaborating a design of concrete action plans, however, can achieve the inclusion of different types of visitors. European and Italian laws about accessibility have driven museums to adopt some best practices to improve the access to their own structures, particularly overcoming the obstacles of the architectural, cultural and information barriers. The development of the multimedia technologies and the birth of the socials networks have surely stimulated cultural institutions to elaborate new strategies for the diffusion of their own collections and events. The Information Society constitutes the structure of numerous activities today and it is the main way for social relationships. Strengthen the communicative aspect of the museum, therefore, means recognize its educational role for the society; in fact the relationship between the concepts of citizenship, belonging, cultural identity becomes, therefore, a key issue in the connective function of the museum, and in its role as contact zone. Digital technologies, considered as a tool to enhance accessibility in cultural heritage, can facilitate access, intercultural dialogue and social inclusion indeed. The new multimedia systems will help museums to win these challenges; the inclusion and participation of the visitors are made easier thanks to new tools that allow effective interaction between visitor and cultural heritage. The communicative process in the framework of the museum must be focused, first, on different needs and motivations that drive visitors to make a visit experience. The museum systems must encourage and promote paths that lead to the museum (on site and off site), providing detailed information and contents to those who are going to visit the city (especially through websites). At the end, museums must become more inclusive places (inclusive museum) and participatory, where visitors are placed at the center of the design and where museum itself can not only preserve but also tell about cultural heritage.