OMA 2023 Social Media Ambassador Blog - Olivia Thornberry
The Ohio Museums Association knows a conference isn't just about sessions and speakers, it's about making connections, sharing ideas, and sparking conversations. To help us do all of those things at our annual conference, OMA was proud to introduce Social Media Ambassadors for OMA2023.
These vibrant museum voices helped us create a robust online presence during OMA2023 - both for folks joining us in-person in Newark-Lancaster, and for those not able to attend but following along on their favorite social media sites.
With their unique experience as our online correspondants, we wanted to hear from our Social Media Ambassadors about the OMA conference from their perspective.
Below, Ambassador Olivia Thornberry shares her 2023 conference experience. Olivia Thornberry is a supervisor for the Visitor Experience team with the Columbus Museum of Art. She will be starting her master’s degree in Sustainable Cultural Heritage this fall.
Accessibility in the Modern Museum: New Steps in the Journey
It was such a pleasure this past March to engage with OMA’s yearly conference for my first time as an emerging museum professional. I was most overwhelmed by the choices in presentation topics; so much so that choosing became quite difficult even moments before sessions were set to begin. Even so, I found myself gravitating toward sessions with common themes of accessibility in cultural institutions, including “Expanding Access to the Arts” and “Making Strides in Accessibility.”
Accessibility initiatives, speaking from my own experience with disability, have long been delayed in the cultural workforce, and it is refreshing to know museums across the country are assessing their roles within their communities, especially ones close to my own community in Ohio. Despite already knowing that these discussions have long been researched, and that strides have been made in the way of disability access, I was humbly surprised at the amazing changes already in place in art spaces around the state. From accessible programming to robust digital content, my biggest take-away from the OMA 2023 conference was that there are resources already available and ready for use. These changes are only a question of implementation.
I wanted to detail some of the most compelling and technology-forward accessibility tools as detailed in the conference. Representatives from Massillon Museum gave a wonderful discussion about their website capabilities, including a dollhouse-style virtual tour. Not only is this useful for visualizing the space in preparation for a visit, but the virtual tour allows their collections to be publicly accessible.I was also intrigued to learn about how some institutions have introduced tactile components to their available resources. For instance, representatives from FRONT International explained their tactile graphic map created using a 3-D printer. This map allows visitors to physically feel the space they are in, which can be an incredibly helpful tool for spatial awareness in the disability community. It is clear that in addition to the many necessary small changes that can be made to promote accessibility (such as fostering community partnerships or even making simple building changes), there is incredibly innovative technology being implemented to improve cultural institutions’ accessibility.
In my work at the Columbus Museum of Art, I have found inspiration in championing accessibility initiatives for my visitor experience team in whatever capacity I can. Our wonderful marketing team has invited me to their meetings about website changes, including adding an accessibility toolbar. My boss and mentor, the Director of Visitor Experience and Safety allowed me to explore research and implement training materials for our front-of-house staff. It is such a privilege to be included in these initiatives in my own museum, based on my takeaways from the conference. I plan to build on these takeaways and experiences from both OMA and my home institution of CMoA to prioritize accessibility throughout my career. I am continually inspired by the many disability activists who are already making progress for the art-lovers of the world who deserve better accommodation.