Museums for all: towards engaging, memorable museum experiences through inclusive audio description

Hutchinson, R. 2019. Museums for all: towards engaging, memorable museum experiences through inclusive audio description. PhD thesis University of Westminster Social Sciences

TitleMuseums for all: towards engaging, memorable museum experiences through inclusive audio description
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsHutchinson, R.
Abstract

Museums seek to offer their visitors a rich and rewarding experience that is accessible and inclusive. Many museums rely on vision as a means of access to collections. Yet having vision does not necessarily mean that visitors are able to engage with exhibits. Audio Description (AD) has traditionally been defined as an access tool for people who are blind or partially sighted (BPS), which seeks to make visual information accessible though spoken language. However, AD could simultaneously provide ‘guided looking’ for people with sight. This interdisciplinary thesis sets out the first empirical investigation of AD in museums and its potential as inclusive design. Study 1 examines current understandings of museum AD, through an international practitioner survey. It reveals disagreement regarding whether AD should aspire to be an objective visual-verbal ‘translation’ or whether it should incorporate interpretative techniques in order to provide a rich experience. Study 2 explores the nature of the museum experience by analysing autobiographical memories for museum visits, demonstrating the importance of thoughts, feelings and personal context in museum memories and demonstrating an autobiographical memory coding model. Study 3 investigates the impact of AD on the experience, engagement and memorability of sighted participants, with AD resulting in richer memories compared to standard audio guides or minimal text interpretation.
Study 4 compares sound enriched and standard AD on the experience, engagement and memorability of blind and sighted people, finding experience benefits for all and memorability benefits for BPS people. This research therefore concludes that AD should be taken out of its access ‘niche’ and considered as an inclusive interpretation tool to enhance engagement and access for all visitors. It argues further that the development of inclusive museum AD should be driven by a fuller understanding of the nature of the museum experience and its lasting impact.

Year2019
File
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Publication dates
PublishedDec 2019

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