SEnsory Tools Project
A three-year, IMLS National Leadership Grant supported project focusing on developing a free, digital publication titled 'Sensory Tools for Interpreting Historic Sites' that will offer strategies for increasing visitor engagement through interpretation that is accessible for visitors with disabilities and achievable by historic sites of all sizes.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and New York University’s Ability Project (Project Team) are embarking on a project to tackle the inherent accessibility challenges faced by museums that interpret historic sites. This three-year project will focus on developing a free, digital publication titled Sensory Tools for Interpreting Historic Sites that will offer strategies for increasing visitor engagement through interpretation that is accessible for visitors with disabilities and achievable by historic sites of all sizes. Sensory Tools will outline a series of design processes and solutions that take into consideration a range of needs related to visitor movement, vision, hearing, range of motion, cognitive comprehension and sensory experiences. Sensory Tools will lead to increased access, enjoyment, and understanding of historic sites through their spaces and collections.
Needs and Challenges That the Project Will Address
Across the United States, 45% of museums are historic sites, historical societies or historic preservation organizations. The very features that make historic sites so evocative and immersive often present accessibility challenges for people with disabilities, who comprise more than a quarter of people living in the United States—over 85 million people. This project will increase the capacity of historic sites to develop rich, sensory-based interpretive experiences that are accessible to visitors with disabilities. Historic sites vary widely in terms of their physical characteristics, size, staffing capacity and budget. Recommended solutions will range from simple, lower-cost prototypes to higher-end approaches.
core working groups
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and New York University’s Ability Project (Project Team) received 54 submissions for participation in the 'Sensory Tools for Interpreting Historic Sites' project. All applications were reviewed by a panel of 8 to assemble both working groups.
Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, Bainbridge Island, WA
Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, PA
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga, NY
Fostersfields Living Historical Farm, Morris Township, NJ
Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, LA
Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, Morristown, NJ
Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN
Amy Gravino, A.S.C.O.T. Consulting
Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, National Federation of the Blind
Ellen Giusti, Independent Consultant
Emily Ladau, Words I Wheel By
Ruth D. Bernstein, Hearing Loss Association of America NYC Chapter
Michael Tranquilli, Adjunct Professor, New York University Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy
Nefertiti Matos, Assistive Technology Educator at New York Public Library
Shira Mechanic, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Fidget Club
Project Partners and Contributors
Principal Partner Organizations
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- New York University Ability Project
- Ashley Grady, Senior Program Manager, Smithsonian Institution
- Beth Ziebarth, Director, Accessibility Program, Smithsonian Institution
- Ashley Wilson, Graham Gund Architect, National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Carrie Villar, Acting Vice President for Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Project Evaluator and Facilitator
- Janet L. Rassweiler, Museum Consultant