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The Maastricht Diplomat

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On Inclusivity at Museumnacht

Introduction & disclaimer: 

On Friday 19 April 2024, Maastricht’s MuseumNacht celebrated their 8th edition with thirteen museums and cultural institutions: Boekhandel Dominicanen, Bonnefanten, Code043, Brouwerij Bosch, Bureau Europa, Centre Céramique, Hoge Fronten, Jan van Eyck Academie, Fashionclash, Landbouwbelang, Lumière Cinema, Marres, Museum aan het Vrijthof, Muziekgieterij, Natuurhistorisch Museum, Nederlandse Dansdagen, SALLY Dansgezelschap Maastricht, Theater aan het Vrijthof, Toneelgroep Maastricht, Transport Artspace and VIA ZUID. An annual event which began in April 2016, MuseumNacht creates a space where people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests come together for one night to explore the art and culture of the city. When considering inclusivity in this context, it is important to ensure that the exhibitions and activities cater to the diverse audience and that individuals of all ages feel welcome and engaged throughout the night. At the request of Cultura Mosae, Maastricht Diplomat conducted an investigative piece focused on ‘inclusivity’ as showcased by Museumnacht. As their website provides under the heading of ‘inclusion’, they seek to create a night for everyone. It is important to note the internal organizational separation of Cultura Mosae and the thirteen different museums. While accessibility is an important theme implemented in the museums, in the end, it is up to their own discretion. Cultura Mosae sought to achieve inclusivity through their competences; transportation, advertisement, etc. Cultura Mosae’s development of labels to indicate which events are specifically suitable for visual, hearing, cognitive,  and physical impairment is one step toward ensuring preparedness and a welcoming environment. Nevertheless, true implementation is challenging when the organizational aspect prevents cohesiveness. 

Accessibility (physical, visual): 

Accessibility was identified as one of the main pillars of inclusivity by our writers, defined as a space that can be enjoyed, understood, and navigated by all people regardless of physical and mental impairments. Regrettably, some museums were not apt for people with mobility limitations and wheelchair users due to their structural design; steep staircases, and narrow spaces. In such cases, skillfully placed signs indicated towards ramps, elevators, and wheelchair parking spots, not all museums had this courtesy.  Following the assessment, one of our investigators witnessed a staff member at Marres, Huis voor Hedendaagse Cultuur performing a survey on accessibility with a few visitors, showcasing the institutions' interest in first-hand experiences on this very topic. Deserving of mention is Jan Van Eyck Academy, which provided multi-sensorial interactive exhibitions for guests of all abilities. Equipped with visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile elements, these exhibitions could be enjoyed by people with varying sensory limitations. Regardless of the structural challenges a space or exhibition posed, MuseumNacht staff tried to accommodate all people. This included providing sitting for long performances, signs indicating allocative places for mobility limitations, and well-positioned staff wearing bright yellow shirts ready to help. The intentionality in creating an accessible environment for all is evident by MuseumNacht management and staff, however, the accommodations were not provided equally throughout the different museums. 


Addressing inclusivity in artistic expression, our investigators were positively impressed with the diversity in artists, topics, and mediums present in the exhibitions. Showcasing Peruvian, Brazilian, Korean, Colombian, and Ukrainian voices, amongst many more, these museums invoke artists from all over the globe to share their experiences. In doing so, providing a space where all visitors can find a piece, a voice they relate to. Stories relating to immigration, struggles with identity, the commodification of women, challenges of social media, political discourses, and LGBTQIA+ narratives. Respectively, Lumière stood out from the rest in spotlighting Queer representation. As part of their program they screened five selected global LGBTQIA+ stories, all of them subtitled in English, readings showing Queer experiences and a fun trivia of Queer cinema. Regarding media, visitors could enjoy films, live performances, interactive pieces, books, photography, sculptures, and more. Throughout all mediums, freedom of artistic expression was evident, one of our investigators interviewed a performer at Marres, Huis voor Hedendaagse Cultuur which recalled the experience positively. Stating they were given full creative freedom and a supportive working environment to undergo their art forms. Through our investigators' eyes, it was made clear that the museums offered a colourful array of nationalities, languages, genders, and freedom of expression throughout their exhibitions. 


In terms of the linguistic aspect of the event, which refers to the language being inclusive and respectful to visitors, there is only little our investigators had to add. Notably, the visits to the Natuurhistorisch Museum, and the Brouwerij Bosch posed some challenges, as their exhibitions and events were predominantly or exclusively in Dutch. In the case of the Natuurhistorisch Museum, this meant that all exhibition and information texts were inaccessible to non-Dutch speakers. The specific programme for MuseumNacht however was in English or was without a language barrier which made up for this. Concerning the Brouwerij Bosch, the explanations on the different brewery equipment and rooms as well as the performance were in Dutch. Despite this, it must be noted that they provided flyers in English and did their best to communicate in different languages. Apart from these visits, the feedback regarding linguistic accessibility was positive. Deserving of a mention are the Boekhandel Dominicanen whose performance was held primarily in English, and included some French, Dutch, and German, and the Jan van Eyck Academy which offered descriptors and flyers in English, and had auditory exhibitions in multiple languages such as English, Spanish, or Portuguese. Bonnefanten instruction signage and artistic description were in English and Dutch as well as the music provided by Mr. Sage. Another notable mention is how the bus transportation hosts charged with providing entertainment did so in English and Dutch, rotating between them throughout the rides. Some additional comments that our investigators had were that it would have been a great opportunity for the Boekhandel to showcase books in multiple languages to highlight diversity and inclusivity instead of displaying almost entirely Dutch books. Furthermore, in their performance, human beings were referred to and grouped as “Man”, a word that could’ve been exchanged for something more inclusive and gender neutral such as humans or humanity. Nonetheless, in general, the linguistic accessibility was fulfilled and positively received.

Range of activities (age)

In considering the inclusivity of ages throughout MuseumNacht, the strategic designation of specific exhibitions and activities tailored to age groups ensures a diverse and engaging experience for all attendees. For instance, interactive exhibits often resonate with children and families, while in-depth discussions or performances may cater more to adults seeking intellectual stimulation. The Bonnefanten Museum's Hip-Hop 50-Year Anniversary event, featuring Mr. Sage's 'Love is the Key' music, exemplifies this inclusivity by celebrating a cultural phenomenon that transcends generational boundaries, uniting communities through the universal language of music. Similarly, the Fashionclash Pop-Up Atelier's Creative Workshops at Centre Ceramique catered specifically to teenagers and young adults, providing them with a platform for creative expression and collaboration within their peer group.  The Natuurhistorisch Museum curated experiences suitable for all ages as well, with the Build a Bear and Design Your Own Museum Night Bag activities fostering intergenerational enjoyment and learning. Lumiere’s range of activities of the Five Films for Freedom, the Carousel Film Programme, and Showcase Tango Maastricht provided something for every age to enjoy throughout the night. Activities such as Lumiere’s x Cineville Photobooth and Bonnfanten’s Light Painting/ Photobooth are able to bring all ages together as most enjoy having a picture as a memory. To ensure attendees can make informed choices about participation, creating a label about the recommended age range for each exhibition or activity is essential. For instance, exhibitions like Alison Jackson's 'Truth is Dead' at the Fotomuseum an het Vrijthof and Talentlab's 'Cleansing Ritual’ may not be appropriate for younger age groups due to their mature content. Providing such details on the MuseumNacht website is vital in facilitating a respectful and comfortable experience for all attendees. 


In conclusion, our team undeniably enjoyed our time at Museumsnacht exploring the various museums and events. While efforts being made towards accessibility are visible, based on our observations, there are still structural limitations within some museums that hinder universal access, and linguistic accessibility remains a challenge. Despite these obstacles, the artistic and creative diversity showcased, and the engaging activities tailored to different age groups can only be commended. Going forward, we must continue to advocate for inclusivity to ensure that everyone can participate in this enriching night.


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