The Expectations of the Visually Impaired University Students from Museums

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this study is to determine what the visually impaired students already know about museums, how museums contribute to their learning and what those students expect to gain from their visits to the museums in Turkey and thus, to enable them to have more valuable experiences. For this purpose, a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations was organized for a group of visually impaired students. The study is a sample case study carried out with a small group. Qualitative data were obtained from interviews, observations, and the compositions written by the students to reflect on their experiences after the visit. The data were encoded according to content analysis and then, categories and subcategories were formed. The results revealed that blind students expect to have the copies of the works of art, embossed forms of the drawings, and some explanations in Braille alphabet. They would like some attendants to inform them about the museums while the other students who suffer from low vision expect to have more spacious and better lighted interiors, contrasting colors in exhibitions, and scripts in large-prints. The study shows that visits to museums are very beneficial for the visually impaired students, but unfortunately the educational activities for those students are still insufficient in Turkey.

Key Words

Learning in the Museum, Visually Impaired, Acquisitions, Expectations.

A museum is "a non-profit, permanent institution which is in the service of the society and its development, which is accessible to the public and which collects, studies and preserves the materials related to human beings and their environment and shares such information with the public for their own research, education and pleasure" (Madran, 1999, p. 6) . According to Shaw (2004, p. 14), a museum is a place that embodies a certain identity through the objects it exhibits, the arrangements and rules it demands for those objects, and it is a means of social engineering that infuses the population with some values. In the beginnings, the function of the museums was to collect, repair, safeguard, and exhibit the objects, but now its educational function gains priority. Museums are not only the shelters for the objects that might disappear because of time or human progress, but also dynamic institutions that teach human beings their long history and the endless opportunities in the universe (ICOM Türkiye MillÎ Komitesi Yayinlari, 1963).

Museums support rich and interrelated learning. They allow people to understand the worldly existences in all periods of time by establishing their personal meanings. People learn everything about history, science, or art related to human beings from different museums (Falk & Dierking, 2000). No matter how familiar, exotic, personal, or universal the museums are, they can be used to stimulate imagination and improve creativity (Gartenhaus, 2000).

The real objects exhibited in museums make learning more exciting and motivating. The educational function of museums has gained importance especially in the late nineteenth century in developed countries. Once the role and importance of museums in learning are realized, museums can establish educational units and offer programs and physical conditions that can appeal to all kinds of audiences (e.g., schools, families, government offices, citizens, handicapped people etc.). Thus, there might be educational services for the visually impaired people that museums might be able to offer.

The situation in which there is a complete or partial loss in mental, physical, behavioral, or emotional functions due to the damages on some organs is called "disability." Because of these defects, the person may not hear, see, or learn in the same way as the others do (Ataman, 1997). Legal blindness is a general definition in terms of educational and rehabilitatory studies, except for the services provided by some governments. …