Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum (MOOC) week 2

This week’s theme: target audiences – who visits and who doesn’t.

Where are we now?



Profile of visitors




What prevents people from visiting museums? (Types of access)

  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Intellectual
  • Financial
  • Emotional or attitudinal
  • Lack of involvement in decision-making
  • Lack of access to information
  • Cultural
  • Technological

Strategies to address them

  • outreach
  • drawing target audiences in – eg art clubs, groups (the course gives a detailed example of how some galleries and museums have addressed kids access to them)


This was a short interesting session and made me think of three things.

1) Back in 1993 (before disability equality legislation was enacted in 1995) I attended a demonstration outside the Tate Britain Gallery about them denying access to disabled people. Wheelchair users could get in the building (around the back) but the staff had told a potential visitor that they would be denied access on safety grounds if when they arrived another wheelchair user was already in the building. The demonstration even made the press.

Me at the Tate in 1993image

2) At my visit to the Dulwich Picture Gallery this week I passed a section of the building where a group of learning disabled youngsters were working in an arts group. This seems quite normal – and good – now. There are all sorts of personal and social benefits from such activities. 

3) While the section looked at audience access and outreach strategies it did not address the issue of engaging people through a reorientation of content too  deeply. Yet this is key: if content fails to recognise  – or worse distorts and insults – visitors then it is clearly going alienate and exclude them.

Thinking about my work
I know my target audience – artists and those interested in the visual arts who are not aware of the Social Model of Disability – plus anyone interested. Winking smile So I will need to turn my thoughts to this more and more as my MA nears its end.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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