For the Survey, see elsewhere on this website.
In May and June of 2022, invitations to participate in the Deaf Museums Survey was sent to over 150 individual email addresses of professionals working in mainstream museums across Europe. The email addresses were collected from the websites of the museums.
In addition, the invitation was sent and/or posted on the Facebook pages of over 30 national and international museum networks.
The text of the invitation:
" The Deaf Museums Project is a transnational Erasmus+ Project, see www.deafmuseums.eu and www.facebook.com/groups/deafmuseumsproject.
One of the objectives of our project: to help bridge the gap between mainstream museums and professionals, and Deaf Museums and professionals. Deaf Museums are museums about Deaf History, Deaf Culture. See: https://www.deafmuseums.eu/index.php/en/deaf-museums/europe
One of our outputs: recommendations. For Deaf Museums to survive, multiply and grow, they may have to cooperate with mainstream museums and professionals. But is this possible? And if possible: how do we bring this about?
This survey will help us find answers. It consists of 9 easy questions and one more difficult one: question 9, what should we include in our recommendations?
All answers will be anonymous, but will be a great help to us and our project!
Please also complete the survey if you - or your Museum - have never considered accessibility for Deaf visitors or working with the Deaf community. Your answers are important for us - and for the funding of our project!
And please forward this survey to colleagues, other museum professionals, your networks. The more responses we get, the better.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP! "
25 persons completed the survey. A disappointingly small number, but of course people get many requests to participate in surveys. Most professionals may not have been aware of and/or interested in 'Deaf Museums'. The timing was unfortunate too, because at that time most museums were still struggling with the after-effects of the Covid pandemic and the lock-downs of museums.
For some, the fact that the Survey was in English may have been a problem.
We are grateful to the people who did make the effort to respond. When interpreting the results, we have taken into account that the respondents were probably not representative of out target group: professionals working in mainstream museums. The people who answered our questions most probably had some experience with the Deaf community, and/or were interested in Deaf Museums for some other reason.
In spite of the small number of responses, made by people who probably are not representative of the larger population of museum professionals in Europe, the results are interesting.
1. 76% of the respondents work in a museum:
2. Where is your Museum located, in what country?
- UK: 7
- the Netherlands: 6
- Slovakia: 4
- Austria: 3
- Sweden: 2
- Italy: 1
- Germany: 1
- USA (Texas): 1
Partly, the number of countries of the respondents reflect the Museums that we sent our direct mail to. We searched websites for contact persons; English and Dutch websites did not pose any language problems. For other sites, we had to use Google translate to find the relevant information.
10 respondents work in a national Museum, 6 in a regional Museum, and 5 in a local Museum. This again may well reflect the Museums that we sent our direct mail to: we started out by searching the websites of better known Museums for email addresses. This is also reflected in the answers to question 4, the average number of visitors.
4. If possible: Can you tell us the number of visitors to your Museum per year? In a regular year, before all COVID-19 restrictions. This will give us an indication of the size of your museum.
- 1: 1 million +
- 4: 500.000 - 1 million
- 5: 100.000 - 500.000
- 1: 50.000 - 100.000
- 6: 50.000
5. Your knowledge of, and/or contacts with the Deaf community in your region, country?
19 of the 25 respondents had at least some knowledge and/or contacts with the Deaf community in their country or region. This supports our impression that the people who took the trouble to complete our survey already had some interest in Deaf Museums, the Deaf community. As explained above: the group of respondents is NOT representative of the population of mainstream Museum professionals. The 6 respondents without any contacts with, knowledge of the Deaf community probably is more representative of the population.
6. Heather Hollins (in: 𝙍𝙚-𝙋𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘿𝙞𝙨𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮: 𝘼𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙢 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘼𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙮 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙈𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙪𝙢, 2013) distinguishes 4 stages through which museums can progress in developing collaborative, empowering and reciprocal relationships with disabled people.
Can you tick the boxes that apply to your Museum - with respect to Deaf people? More than 1 box is allowed.
- 10 ((47.6%): Our exhibitions and services are accessible to Deaf people; we provide sign language guides
- 15 (71.4%): We regularly collaborate with Deaf professionals, Deaf consultants
- 6 (28.6%): Deaf people are involved in long term consultation which takes on the form of a two-way dialogue and explores issues that are important to both parties
- 3 (14.3%): Deaf people participate in the decision making process at the most senior level in the museum hierarchy and are able to directly influence decisions
- 2 (9.5%): Our Museum currently employs one or more Deaf professionals
People were allowed to tick more than one box, so it is very well possible that the two last categories: Deaf people participate in the decision making process and Our Museum currently employs one or more Deaf Professionals overlap. On the positive side: more than 70% of the respondents does regularly collaborate with Deaf professionals, Deaf consultants.
Some of the 'Other' responses are interesting:
- We currently develop a special exhibition on Radio that will make all content accessible to Deaf visitors.
This person did not understand the question? Does not understand that Radio is not accessible to Deaf visitors?
A more promising answer:
- During corona, we offered a course sign language for our employees.
The sentences that are incomplete in the above diagram:
- I would rather explore integrating deaf culture and/or deaf history in our semi-permanent display than organise a temporary exhibition about the subject.
- We had an exhibition couple years ago where a part of it was about deaf history in Sweden.
- We are part of a large Museum agency and are not able to decide as a single museum over our exhibitions schedule. But we are interested in the topic.
The good news: only 6 respondents (24%) says that this is not possible.
Again, a positive result. Only 4 respondents (16%) say this is not possible for them. The majority (16, or 64%) is willing to consider this.
9 . What - in your opinion - are the top 3 recommendations that we should include?
An open question with 12 answers, not all of them usable. Some of the very usable recommendations:
- To engage deaf stakeholders at all stages of the project to ensure any museum project takes account of their needs and is as accessible as possible.
This should not be treated as a ‘box ticking’ exercise, nor should the same individuals be regarded as the spokes people for the community.
Should give serious consideration to investing in equipment and resources that will benefit aurally impaired visitors (e.g. hearing induction loop, subtitling, etc) as well as training for the staff, appointing people from the deaf community and encouraging them to become volunteers.
- Include consultation in your planning from the beginning; make sure that costs are included in budgeting from the beginning (Payment for consultation and experts, translation costs, technical requirements, etc); training for staff that centres what is needed by Deaf visitors, rather than what we assume might be needed and an understanding of *why*
- Integrate deaf culture in permanent displays and regular educational programming.
- Sensitisation of the staff for a better understanding of the problems and challenges; regular evaluation of the work done.
- My top 3 requests for better Deaf provision in our Museum would be a handy list of things we could do which would help - in an exhibition that is entirely composed of objects on display and written text, is there anything more that should be provided?; secondly some suggestions of what a Deaf Exhibition might entail (we cover the history of the British Schools movement in the nineteenth-century - I do not know where I would go about finding any information about the deaf communities interaction with our subject area specifically), and thirdly any information you can provide on contacting volunteers in the Deaf community who might want to volunteer at our Museum and provide the services you have spoken of? We are almost entirely volunteer-led and do not have any deaf volunteers, but would be very happy to welcome anyone who wants to get involved.
10. Any other advice, comments, information that you want to share with us?
- I am interested in how museums might better engage aurally impaired visitors from minority ethnic communities. They face several sets of challenges - understanding a foreign language and showing sensitivity to a different culture - in addition to a disability. I am mindful of the problem of social marginalisation because of this but don’t have data with which to make representations to governing bodies for advocacy purposes.
With interesting answers like this, we can only regret that not more people completed our Survey. And that the questions were answered anonymously: we cannot contact the respondents to ask for more information.
The main conclusion: even though our sample is not representative of Museum professionals in Europe, there are Museums and Museum professionals in Europe who are interested in working with Deaf professionals, either to make their mainstream exhibitions more accessible - and enjoyable? - for Deaf visitors, and/or to work together to build an exhibition about Deaf history, Deaf culture.
Collaboration IS possible. And we made a hand-out with some suggestions for Museum professionals who are interested, but don't know where to start: "A Deaf Exhibition? Yes!"
As for the comment under question 10, about Deaf visitors from minority ethnic communities: a very good question, but unfortunately, we do not have any these data either.