Four Balkan museums improved the accessibility of their work for disabled people thanks to the regional project “Improving the accessibility of museums in the Balkans for people with disabilities”.
In the Kikinda National Museum and the Homeland Museum of Knjaževac (Republic of Serbia), the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Macedonian Jews in Skopje (Northern Macedonia) and the Homeland Museum of Visoko (Bosnia and Herzegovina), various activities have been implemented that will increase the accessibility of these institutions for people with disabilities.
As part of this regional project, the Balkan Museum Access Group conducted four Access Surveys making recommendations for each of the four museums involved in the project. Analysis of the state of accessibility of an institution is the first step towards improving its accessibility and work with people with disabilities.
“Until this project, there was no assessment of the accessibility of our museum for people with disabilities. We cooperated with associations of disalbed people, specifically blind and partially sighted people and people with mental impairment, but that cooperation was sporadic. It is important for us to bring the local heritage closer to categories of people with learning difficulties, which is especially possible now with tactile images and video content,” said Dragan Kiurski, a museum pedagogue with many years of experience working with different groups of visitors at the National Museum in Kikinda.
Tactile and didactic toys intended for working with children of different ages, tactile pictures of different objects (that will be followed by QR codes that lead to more content about the objects), audio and video content with interpretation in sign language and subtitles in local language and English, and replicas of museum objects that can be touched, are just some of the new contents installed in these four museums museums.
The Homeland Museum of Knjaževac was visited by 29-year-old Miloš, a person with disabilities. Miloš has already been to this museum several times, but he points out that the new contents contributed to a more complete experience of the museum visit.
“In the museum, I used magnifiers and magnifying film, as well as QR codes, which meant a lot to me when reading and looking around, but also for getting information and getting to know the objects in the museum. I was happy with the brochure in braille and the texts in enlarged print. I didn’t know that there were such things in the museum and that I could touch some objects,” Miloš said.
Provided with this project, museums in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and North Macedonia received additional equipment that will further improve existing work. Tablets and headphones will provide museums with more diverse and customized audio and video content in exhibition spaces and other museum activities.
In order to improve accessibility, 360 virtual tours were produced as part of this project, with emphasis and additional information on individual objects, which enables online users to have a virtual visit to these museums. In this way, disabled people are given the opportunity to explore museum space and artifacts from their computers or smartphones.
With the aim of exchanging experiences with museumgoers from different parts of the world, an international webinar on museum accessibility was organized as part of this regional project. The webinar brought together experts from the United States of America, Mexico, Serbia, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and offered inspiring examples of museum work with various marginalized groups, as well as creative ways of including “excluded” groups of museum visitors (such as people with disability).
As part of this project, a publication and a map of accessible museums will be published on the website of the Balkan Network of Museums. Museum can still fill in the questionnaire and be included in this overview of accessible museum services in the Balkan region.
This regional initiative and project was initiated by Milena Milošević Micić, museum advisor and art historian from the Knjaževac Local Museum in cooperation with colleagues from Bitola and Sarajevo (Dr. Irena Ruzin, Aida Mia Brülisauer and Aida Vežić). The project “Improving the accessibility of museums in the Balkans for people with disabilities” is financed by the Embassy of the United States of America in Belgrade through the Alumni Small Grants Program.