This project is about inclusion in the museum sector. Concerns around inclusion and equality are rapidly increasing. And, due to these societal dynamics, museums are in times of fundamental change towards inclusivity.
At the start of the project, a theoretic framework depicting the different layers and elements of inclusion was developed. This knowledge helped to gather rich contextual insights in the research phase of the project; exploring inclusivity from the museum sector’s perspective and the visitors’ perspective. As a result, three key challenges and opportunities from the sectors’ perspective, and the key visitors’ needs, were identified. From synthesising these findings, it was found that the key opportunity and challenge for the project lay in addressing the relationship between museums and the public: to help move towards a mutual symbiotic relationship, where both parties are able to benefit from.
Based on this challenge brainstorming, experimentation, and observations were done to iteratively develop a strategic service concept. The final concept that evolved was Habitat. To put it briefly: Habitat is a digital museum platform that gives small pieces of context and sparking questions related to art pieces, to support visitors’ curiosity and line of thinking. And, it allows visitors to leave their own ideas, thoughts, or opinion on augmented sticky notes. Habitat’s ultimate contribution to inclusion is that it, on the one hand, helps visitors to become active participants, and allows them to see what art can do and mean to them, without needing to be an art-expert. And, on the other hand, it helps museums to better understand their visitors, tap better into their (inclusive) needs, and facilitate the space to build a mutually beneficial relationship the public.
In validation tests with museum visitors, the concept’s desirability was investigated. In parallel, expert evaluations were performed. The insights from these activities combined were used to formulate the final recommendations. Here advice is being given on how to answer the following questions, related to the desirability, feasibility and viability: ‘Can it be done?’, ‘Does it bring value?’, and ‘Can it be sufficiently supported?’. The project was primarily centred around the Dutch museum sector. However, input was also gathered from international sources and the project aims to be as inspirational and scalable as possible for cultural experiences and organisations, in and beyond the Dutch cultural landscape.
Finally, what this thesis in particular advocates for, when designing for inclusion, is to focus on finding out what people might have in common and what connects them. In terms of defining peoples’ needs, designers should not focus on separating groups of people to fit simplified personas, instead they should look out to find universal needs shared among all. This will help to recognize common grounds on which inclusion can be built. Besides that, this thesis advocates to adopt a system thinking mindset when designing for inclusion. Doing so will help to understand the interactions between the actors in the system, the environment around them, and to see who gets excluded, why, and how.