How does your institution provide for the comfort of its visitors? Does your site include a café or drink and snack machines? Do you have ample seating areas for some visitors to rest while others can continue to look around?
A few of the smaller museums in North Carolina do not even have rest rooms. This is a huge audience-limiting factor. Families with small children will not feel welcome, and adults often experience a variety of conditions that necessitate restrooms in public spaces. Portable outhouses can be a cost effective remedy for institutions without these facilities, especially for those museums which open their doors only once a month or so. Of course, “port-o-potties” are always an option to accommodate crowds at large public events.
One visitor amenity that is relatively new on the museum radar-screen is nursing rooms. More and more children’s museums, science museums, and art museums offer these spaces. If your cultural heritage institution has a steady stream of families with young children, a nursing room may be an accommodation worth considering. Although this writer hopes that nursing mothers would feel welcome to feed their babies in most public spaces, a quieter, semi-private space–set apart from a museum’s main galleries–makes many nursing pairs more comfortable. Problems with latching on in the early months and easily distracted older babies can make public nursing troublesome for mothers. A restroom, unless it has a clean lounge area, is not an adequate space for mothers to nurse. Read here for an appreciative mother’s account of a recent visit to Marbles Children’s Museum in Raleigh and its nursing room.
Try to keep the physical needs of your institution’s audience in mind as you plan for and improve your facility’s public spaces. Ramps, for instance, can enable access for visitors in both wheelchairs and strollers. (See ADA requirements, especially Title iii.) Well designed label copy and graphics promote legibility for most readers. What other provisions have come in handy to provide access for a variety of audiences at your institution?
Posted on August 31, 2012, in collections access, historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged accommodations, Bath State Historic Site, facilities, Leigh Swain, Marbles Children's Museum, nursing rooms. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.