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NEH/AHRC Grant Funds Pilot Study of Inclusive Museum Experiences

photos of an old map and book are overlaid with text reading: NEH and AHRC Supporting Digital Innovation

Audrey G. Bennett, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and Professor of Art and Design and Communication Media, and Stamps DESIS Lab Founder and Director, was recently awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council through their New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions Program. The project aims to improve inclusive and adaptive experiences at museums for people with disabilities.

The project entitled I Don’t See What You Mean: Broadening Participation Through Co-created Inclusive Digital Museum Audio” is led by Bennett and Alison Eardley of the University of Westminster, UK. It is a pilot study to rigorously evaluate a series of workshops for inclusive co-created audio description using interactive aesthetics at the Smithsonian Museum, working with diverse blind, partially blind, and sighted audiences. With the resulting proof-of-concept, the objectives are to:

  • Democratize the creation of digitally available museum audio interpretation to enhance representation and engagement by traditionally marginalized groups
  • Improve visitor-facing experiences of online access to a diverse range of artworks for all museum visitors towards fostering digitally-enabled equitable participation
  • Extend the reach of inclusive digital audio to global museum audiences by considering potential transatlantic differences in expectations and reception of inclusive audio description

The $50,000 grant will fund the initiative that has the overall goal of providing museum practitioners with a robust model to enrich and extend their digital provision to engage traditionally marginalized audiences. 

Jane Prophet, Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, notes that the grant has particular significance with the transatlantic partnership on issues of equitable and inclusive experiences. I am delighted that Professor Bennett and her United Kingdom partners have been awarded funding for their international collaboration in digital research that increases access to major collections. This research tackles an element of the art world’s ableism,” said Prophet.