Dancing to a new beat, making museums easier to navigate

An international classical ballet dancer has set her sights on mastering how to make museum navigation easier for everyone, including neurodivergent people.

Inspired by a partially blind child with autism, University of Canterbury Master of Business Administration (MBA) student Kase Craig worked on a consulting project to ensure all visitors to the Canterbury Museum can navigate successfully in its spaces – including unwritten rules, such as what objects can be touched.

An accomplished professional classical ballet dancer trained at the New Zealand School of Dance, Craig performed with the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux in France for 11 years.

“I’m originally from Christchurch, but have spent most of my career overseas. When I returned home in 2020 to start my MBA at the University of Canterbury, I was motivated to work on a consultancy project that would have an impact on the city,” he says.

“I was inspired by a young boy with autism, partially blind and non-verbal, who regularly visits the Canterbury Museum with his family. His needs, and the challenges faced by visitors in similar situations, are complex and must be resolved so that everyone can successfully navigate the unwritten rules of the museum, like knowing which artifacts can and cannot be touched.

Craig wanted his MBA project to answer the question: how could we make the Canterbury Museum the most inclusive space in Christchurch?

His consulting project comes at a good time for the Museum as it advances plans for the redevelopment of its Rolleston Avenue site.

“For the Canterbury Museum, it’s important to tell the story of the heritage collection while removing barriers that can create unnecessary effort and separation,” says Craig.

To that end, over the past year it has worked in partnership with the Canterbury Museum on its final MBA assessment. Craig recently presented his work to museum officials in a special exhibit.

Rachael Walkinton, Head of Public Engagement at Canterbury Museum, said: “Kase has worked with members of our neurodiverse community using an inclusive (non-linear) design approach to increase familiarity as neurotypical visitors move from gallery to gallery and exhibition to exhibition.He created his project in a design lab at CDHB (Canterbury District Health Board), and our exhibitions team have now transported it to our living room visitors and has set up a “museum laboratory” exhibition, which will continue until the middle of the year.

The UC MBA Program offers opportunities for students to complete projects with real impact, says UC Senior Reader
Dr. Christian Walsh. “We love seeing our students help local organizations, from all types of sectors, to make the world a better place for their communities.

“For MBA students, the final consulting project is an opportunity to apply their learning from across the MBA journey to benefit their organizations and communities. We encourage students to think about the impact they can have and give them the tools, knowledge, skills and mindset to tackle tough issues and improve the lives of those who affect them. around,” says Dr. Walsh.

“Kase’s project is a great example of a very complex problem space where he applied a design thinking process taught in the MBA, underpinned by principles of inclusive design. This led him to tackle the problem with deep curiosity, then unleashing creativity, and finally having clarity, to be able to recommend practical steps the museum can take to make its space more inclusive for everyone.

Craig has created a website (www.ourmuseum.org.nz) and used the CDHB Design Lab to make the project more accessible and easier to follow, especially for neurodiverse people who may find written progress reports difficult to use.

“Inclusive design principles have underpinned a process of design thinking to increase awareness of the many nuanced user perspectives related to how people with autism continually grow, evolve, and adapt to their environment,” says Craig .

His final MBA project included:

  • 20 interviews with participants from the autism community
  • Consultation with 24 museums in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad
  • Findings from Canterbury Museum staff and the autism community involved in the design of prototypes
  • Extensive testing of solutions under real conditions
  • Resource requirements and initial plans for implementing the recommendations

Craig is excited about the next steps: “I’ve created a set of change management considerations for resourcing and implementing project results, mitigating unexpected barriers or obstacles, and evaluating effectiveness. overall. Additionally, the high level of industry engagement throughout the project has created momentum for change at Canterbury Museum and favorable conditions to continue moving the project forward.

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