Design Within Reach: Interpreting for Disability in the Human and Natural Disaster Museum

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John, deWolf
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Cultural institutions like museums preserve, interpret, and present aspects of the natural and cultural importance of humanity. As resources for the public, their mission is to collect artifacts, stories, and media; to share knowledge and allow for research, and to inform public audiences. As a facility for public use, museums should consider all audiences of all abilities in the design of the museum, creating public spaces suitable for visitation by the blind and people with low vision, the deaf and hard of hearing, and people with mobility issues. A public space that considers all users has the potential to create a better visitor experience for all. By interpreting standards and guidelines to see beyond what is mandated or suggested, good design is achievable. By focusing on what is within reach— at arms length, narrow or short field of distance—better design is attainable by any designer for a broader audiences. Culture, society, and heritage play an important role in design. Nova Scotia, the Province where this practicum project is located, has a strong connection to disasters maritime and man-made. The Human and Natural Disaster Museum, a fictitious museum, will thus provide a space for the interpretation of disasters related to the region. Both architecture and interpretation, however, will be grounded in an understanding the cultural and heritage of place. A museum exhibition is a particular type of storytelling involving the curation of objects and the sequencing of experiences, and guided by interpretive intentions. This practicum project borrows from the narrative qualities of a typical exhibition as a means to guide the design of the public spaces of the museum outside the exhibition halls. Through the examination of the cultural context of the museum’s theme and location, established design guidelines, the pedigree of the adaptive structure to be reused, and examples of museum design, this practicum project provides a better understanding of the function of museums, and a better visitor experience for all.
Interior Design, Disability, Museum, Halifax, Adaptive Reuse, Hand, Narrative