Another in an occasional series of 15 minute musings on items in the news last week.
I’m working on a blog post for tomorrow on museums’ efforts to be accessible to a broad range of audiences. (And it is slow going—please lob stories and links to me if you have any museum accessibility news to contribute. Thank you.)
Anyway, I've been distracted by thinking about the story from last week about how the Musee d’Orsay evicted a couple and their child who were on a free trip to the museum with a group that supports “hard up” families. Why? For being "smelly." Another story quoted a spokesperson from the sponsoring group as saying “"Women who stink of perfume don't get asked to leave. No one calls security when you see people pontificating in front of paintings."
Good point. I have found both such groups extremely annoying, on occasion.
Contrast this with the story @adamrozan tweeted about this morning on how the Boston Children’s Museum is offering deeply discounted admission to families on public assistance to “attract a demographic that has largely stayed away” from the museum in the past.
Getting people into the building is only half the battle: how do museums make people feel welcome once they are there? I’ve heard complaints from teenagers who feel harassed for…well, for being teenagers—loud, flirty, rambunctious, social. I've heard from people of color who felt uncomfortable just because no one else in a museum "looked like them." Even CFM’s (white, upper class, highly educated) lecturer Jane McGonigal chided museums for “making her feel stupid.”
The question of what subtle signals museums send, consciously and unconsciously about who is welcome, and who is not, about acceptable behavior, dress, demeanor, is really complicated. For now I want to focus on the more egregious issue raised by the Musee d’Orsay’s behavior: what is your museum’s policy about chastising, or evicting, visitors? Do you have homeless people coming in to use your restrooms (and maybe hang out to see the art?) If so, do you welcome them in or escort them out? What is so unacceptable that someone would be asked to leave--does the person have to appear actually dangerous, or merely make others feel uncomfortable?
I’d appreciate it if you shared any policies (official or unofficial) your museum has on this issue. And if you don’t have any policies—how do your front line staff actually handle these situations?