There’s a challenge that all institutions—and especially those with international reach—face today: how can they best share resources with audiences who speak a range of languages? Translation technology and visitors’ expectations have changed considerably since art museums started grappling with this problem by providing multilingual information and resources on their websites. And research supports further efforts in this direction: not surprisingly, the visitors surveyed during the 2013 Bilingual Exhibit Research Initiative were more satisfied with their visits, felt more valued by the institution, and were able to engage more deeply with the exhibition content when they were provided with interpretive exhibition materials in their language. The benefits are clear, then, but the challenge remains: how should museums prioritize creating these multilingual resources and how should we then share them?
For the Guggenheim, connecting with our multilingual audience is obviously a pressing concern. As a global institution, we have a growing number of resources that have been published in different languages, and we are trying to find ways to make them readily available to our multilingual audiences abroad and here in New York City. One example: we are exploring how to make the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative’s upcoming exhibition on Latin American Art more accessible to people living in New York City who speak Spanish—about 25 percent of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We are also considering the best ways to feature multilingual resources created for both past and upcoming exhibitions online.
We have been eager to discuss this significant issue with other museum staff and with the people whose language needs we hope to meet. And now we’re getting a chance to do just that: on Tuesday, April 15, starting at 12 pm EDT, we will be co-facilitating a tweet chat with the Queens Museum on this very topic.
This came about thanks to the Queens Museum’s weekly online chat, #EduTues. Every Tuesday, the museum hosts a live chat from their Twitter account: they pose a question related to museum education, and participants respond, asking follow-up questions, sharing resources, and making recommendations based around the topic of the day (including the hashtag #EduTues on all tweets).
Last month, we at the Guggenheim chimed in to suggest that they dedicate one #EduTues discussion to the question of how best to provide access to multilingual resources and programs. As you can see in the Twitter thread below, the Queens Museum was excited to talk about these issues as well, and we hatched a plan to run this discussion together.
— Guggenheim Museum (@Guggenheim) February 11, 2014
— Queens Museum (@QueensMuseum) February 11, 2014
We hope you’ll join us and lend your own voice to this important conversation. If you are multilingual or have family members or friends who speak other languages, what organizations have been particularly successful in providing multilingual resources? If you are a museum professional, what strategies have you found to be most helpful in creating and distributing these resources?
To participate, you’ll need a Twitter account, but you don’t have to have an account to follow along with #EduTues chats (you can view Tweets that contain the hashtag #EduTues via search). If you have an opinion on this topic, but do not want to participate using a Twitter account, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.