Galway City Museum is cognisant of the fact that low-light levels in museum galleries, which are necessary to protect light-sensitive objects, can make it difficult for the visually impaired and for older visitors to read labels about the objects on display. It’s a fine balance. While light is important for examining and enjoying museum objects, it can also be damaging to objects; and it must be remembered that the damage can never be undone.
So, starting with the Keepers of the Gael exhibition, its darkest gallery, Galway City Museum has developed new booklets containing large-font, high-contrast labels, based on guidelines and advice from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI):
- Font: Calibri (black on white)
- Titles: 36 point
- Main Text: 22 point
- Spacing: 1.5
- Alignment: Left-justified
Copies are now available from reception and at the entrances to the Keepers of the Gael exhibition. They will soon be available for other exhibitions too.
As background, Museums strive for light levels in the region of 50 lux (c. 5 footcandles), which is usually recommended for reasons of conservation as the appropriate light level for sensitive materials. These levels must be achieved in order to borrow collections from national institutions, such as the National Museum of Ireland or the Royal Irish Academy. Galway City Museum achieves these light levels by removing natural light, controlling artificial light and continued monitoring.
The human visual system takes time to adapt between changes in light level, such as between full daylight outside the museum and comparatively low-level lighting within the museum’s galleries. While initial adaption can take up to 30 seconds, full adaption can take up to 30 minutes. It is generally recommended that comfortable adaptation be managed by allowing for adaptation through progressively lower level spaces. At Galway City Museum, visitors move from the bright outdoor courtyard, to the well-lit reception area and Monument exhibition (which does not contain light-sensitive objects) before proceeding to the darker gallery spaces, Keepers of the Gael and Revolution in Galway, 1913-23.
Galway City Museum continuously seeks to improve its facilities and services and welcomes feedback from the public. If you have any further suggestions feel free to contact us on (091) 5323460 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Works are currently underway for the development of a brand new museum website which will see major improvements in the area of accessibility for all website users. The new website is supported by the Heritage Council under the Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2022 and will be launched in the coming weeks.
Info from The Manual of Museum Exhibitions (2001), edited by Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord