Contents accessibility in archaeological museums and sites: a proposal for a neuropsychological approach
Authors: Michela Benente, Valeria Minucciani, Gianluca D'Agostino
Abstract: With specific reference to the issue of accessibility to cultural content and the inclusion of different audiences, the Authors point out an overview where museums usually tend to create educational activities and support assistive devices dedicated to specific audiences, rather than integrated solutions, that can “be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible", as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).On the basis of previous studies on cultural accessibility and emotional appropriation, the Authors have recently carried out a survey focused in particular on archaeological museums audiences, considering their expectations, their reactions, and their prejudices. At the same time, they have conducted an extensive series of online interviews with Curators and Directors of many archaeological museums and sites in Europe and worldwide, including some in-depth site visits too. The investigations and surveys carried out have strengthened the awareness that museum spaces generate not only cognitive, but also physical and emotional reactions, and that the various publics react to cultural stimuli in very different ways. Therefore it is necessary, in designing museum communication, a disciplinary contamination involving in particular the field of neuropsychology. Such involvement would provide scientific support for the critical assessment of the effects that the environment and the cultural mediation trigger on the different publics.In particular, the Authors believe that the physical arrangement and the atmosphere are usually underestimated in the overall design of museums: on the contrary these two elements combined would allow each visitor to grasp the signals that best suit him or her, according to his/her senses and understanding. In other words, the atmosphere can play a key role in being an immersive communicative medium, in a truly inclusive way where everyone has the opportunity to "feel" and learn something.The Authors are developing a series of experiments that will be carried out first in the laboratory and then in some archaeological museums, in collaboration with a team of Neuropsychologists from the University of Turin and with the support of archaeological consultants and communication experts. By illustrating the current research and describing a series of examples (including best practices, problematic cases, ongoing projects), the paper aims at highlighting how the "design for all" in museums is a field in continuous development. Requiring an evolution in its approach, it also, and above all, represents a challenge in relation to the communication of particularly difficult cultural content, such as those related to the archaeological heritage.
Keywords: Exhibit design, atmosphere, emotions, publics engagement, cultural heritage enhancement
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