Friday, July 31, 2015

MJH at the Disability Pride Parade

This blog is from Yael Friedman, Museum Educator.

On Sunday, July 12, Shu, one of our High School Apprentices, and I participated in New York City’s first annual Disability Pride Parade in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We marched with the Museum Access Consortium (MAC) from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park. Representatives from more than 10 cultural institutions joined the MAC contingent.

Despite the heat, there was a tremendous showing at the parade. It was remarkable to see the enthusiasm and determination of thousands of parade participants, many of whom are disabled. The NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities ensured accommodations for people with different types of disabilities. Many signs addressed challenges that people with disabilities face in their everyday life and the desire to be treated equally. For example, one sign stated "Treat me the way you want to be treated." Not only was this a celebration, it was an educational experience for those unfamiliar with the needs and perspectives of people with disabilities.

During the parade, I held the MAC banner as Shu ran up and down the street giving out Museum flyers and our calendar of events. MAC participants chanted “museums for all” as we made our way down Broadway. Shu cheerfully engaged with all of the supporters lined up alongside the parade and introduced them to the Museum. She reflected that, “Many people said thank you back, which was probably a courteous gesture in others' eyes, but to me, it really meant my work had an impact on them. I had long conversations with a few people on the sidewalk and in the parade. The onlookers were so pleased that people with disabilities are better accommodated in public spaces now than they were 25 years ago, before the ADA. I was also impressed by such advances in society. It was moving to share my happiness with them and be part of this historical moment.”

The Museum has worked with the American Sign Language (ASL) community over the past year, and it has been very successful. We consistently have a large showing at events and have been fortunate to work with three deaf Museum Educators who lead tours in ASL and Russian Sign Language for deaf visitors. Our focus this year is on expanding our programs for people with visual impairments.

A new season of programs for the ASL community will begin in the fall. Bookmark our ASL programs page and check back in September for new ASL events.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Designing Home" Artifacts in Everyday Life

This blog is from Danielle Charlap, our Associate Curator.

Whenever I take groups through the Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism exhibition, everyone shares a knowing look when we get to Henry Dreyfuss. Whether or not visitors recognize Dreyfuss’s name, they certainly recognize his designs. We are lucky to have four of his products on display: the Honeywell Thermostat (c. 1953), Big Ben Alarm Clock (1939), Princess Phone (c. 1959), and Oxford Sink (1945). 

Dreyfuss was incredibly committed to making modern design user-friendly. To better understand how humans interacted with products, Dreyfuss studied the body and movement. He even created two graphical representations he named Joe and Josephine whose measurements were based on his research. He used this information to think about how to make products as ergonomic and practical as possible for their owners.

We see Dreyfuss’s user-centered approach reflected in his thermostat and phone design. Trying to help homeowners avoid unsightly crooked thermostat installations, Dreyfuss thought to make the thermostat round. This shape also comfortably fit in the user’s hand for easy thermostat adjustments. And not only did Dreyfuss’s Princess phone have a light-up dial to make it easier to see, but the same number dial could also be used as a night light. No wonder these products have remained popular for so long! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Joining the Staff and the Museum’s Free Tuesday Afternoon Tour

This post comes to us from Ruth Frankel, our new Communications Assistant, who in an effort to familiarize herself with the collection, joined a Museum tour.

Having explored the Museum on my own accompanied only by the voices of Meryl Streep and Itzhak Perlman, narrators of the Museum’s free audio tour, I was excited to learn more from a real-live Gallery Educator. On the second day of my new job, David Zagor was the tour guide.

Throughout the tour, David used dialogue to teach us. To start the tour, he asked why we thought the Museum was called a “Living Memorial to the Holocaust” rather than just a “history” of the Holocaust. As the tour reached completion in Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, he asked the youngest member of the tour, a girl of about 9 or 10 years old, “What does it mean – trees growing out of rocks?” This type of questioning allowed for meaningful conversation amongst the group.

CAPTION : Gallery Educator David Zagor introduces himself to a group of visitors before leading them on a tour Tuesday, June 30th.

The tour was diverse in audience. Londoners Penny Jones and her daughter Ellie sought out the Museum during their week-long visit to New York. Over a period of two years, Ellie had studied the Holocaust for her A-level exams, which she had just completed to finish high school. Though both visitors made it clear they were riveted by the Museum’s content, upon finishing the tour, they praised David’s inclusion of family stories. Penny told David, whose mother-in-law is a survivor, “Listening to you speak about your family was very important.”

Like the Jones family, I, too, was moved by David’s personal approach. As a new member of the Communications department, I am interested in different ways to tell stories and how to share the unique experiences that the Museum has to offer. I look forward to learning more on future tours from other Gallery Educators.  

Free guided tours are offered with admission every Tuesday at 3 P.M. Click here to learn more about tours of the Museum.