The exhibition presented three-dimensional objects and used standard art gallery object labels. You know the kind – small print and low-set. To add insult to injury, the labels used a reflective material.
In traditional galleries, like the Art Gallery of NSW in the next photo, visitors are more accepting of low-set object labels in small print. This picture shows that the labels are set well below eye-level and even average-height visitors will have to bend to read each and every one.
|Traditional art gallery labels|
This style of object label becomes problematic for free-standing glass cases when labels are put even lower down on the plinth. In many cases visitors have to kneel to read them. Not so easy for older visitors! No wonder many give up in frustration.
In special exhibitions, visitors have come to expect more. Art museum visitors are often well-travelled and many have seen best-practice interpretation in other places.
The National Museum is doing a good job of making object labels more accessible. In several permanent and temporary exhibitions they have adopted an approach that uses a sloping ledge to hold text, images, video screens, or interactive elements.
Here's an example from the First Australians gallery. The ledge has the advantage of being very close to the visitor while leaving a clear view of the objects on display.
|Interpretive ledge in First Australians gallery at NMA|
The following picture shows a group of visitors at the display. It is clear that the visitors are looking at the art works and talking with each other. The great fear of art exhibition curators is that more prominent labels will 'take over' from the art works themselves. This example seems to demonstrate that more accessible information does not substitute for examining the works themselves.
|Visitors in First Australians gallery at NMA|
At the very least, object labels that can't be read by older visitors are an accessibility issue.
Posted by Gillian Savage