In the aforementioned Breaking the Silence gallery, multiple visitors are invited to interact with a digital table, comprising 12 ultra-thin-bezel 1.4-m touch screens. The 8.2-m (27-ft) long ‘study table’ can accommodate up to 24 users—i.e. two per screen—simultaneously, allowing them to access photos, text and graphics by touch.
“The deployment needs to make it intuitive for people to touch a screen,” says Gillam. “This is even easier when the screen is table.”
This is also an example of where the universal keypads come into play. Vision-impaired visitors, for example, can take advantage of a special bilingual text-to-speech interface to explore the table’s content.
“There are also tactile keypads for guests who are blind or have low vision,” says Laspa, “and the installation locations are set up for people in wheelchairs who cannot reach the touch screens.”
“Canadians with disabilities have advised us over time,” Gillam explains. “With the benefit of being able to build all of these components from scratch with our commitment continuing to evolve, we have become a global leader in inclusive design among cultural institutions.”
Another type of interactivity entertains younger visitors with the Lights of Inclusion game in the Canadian Journeys gallery. As they walk into a circle on the floor, it lights up with digitally projected circles of colourful light that surround each participant in the game, then merge and shift as the players approach each other.
“It’s great eye candy to keep the kids busy,” says Laspa. “There are custom-designed patterns on the floor for them to move through.”
“It helps spark conversations for young people about inclusion, co-operation and strength in working together,” says Gillam.
In 2015, the museum won four Muse awards—including two gold, one silver and one bronze—from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) for innovation in digital media. The Muse jurors honoured the Lights of Inclusion floor game with a silver award, calling it “elegant and beautiful, truly teaching the benefits of working together, as opposed to separately. The interactive projection is a very effective and engaging technology.”
The AAM’s bronze award, meanwhile, recognized the Actions Count interactive table, which they felt “weaves mystery and narrative throughout the game to engage users, a great way to teach these principles. The story is very well-done.”
CMHR also won an award for innovation and excellence in the use of digital media that same year from the Jodi Mattes Trust, which promotes barrier-free access for people with disabilities to cultural collections in museums, galleries, archives, libraries and heritage sites. The trust honoured the museum’s inclusive video features and universal keypads for interactivity, with judges saying “all aspects of the museum and its exhibits were built with inclusive design and accessibility in mind. The focus on seamless integration is great and the breadth of offerings is unprecedented. They seem to have thought about a range of audiences from the outset. It’s great to see media is so integral to the experience.”
The following year, CMHR won the Society for Experiential Design’s (SEGD’s) 2016 Sylvia Harris Award and a Merit Award for three of its exhibitions that were designed and implemented by Gagarin, an ‘interactive experience’ firm based in Iceland:
- Collective Actions: Diptychs, which displayed stories of human-rights activism on gesture-controlled 1.4-m (55-in.) portrait-mode screens, using Microsoft’s Kinect system from the video game market.
- Living Tree, a digital projection of various Canadian legal documents, declarations and court rulings appearing to grow out of the ground.
- Human Rights Defenders, a series of videos about Canadians fighting against human-rights abuses, accessed by touch screen or universal keypad.
Like the Jodi Mattes Trust, SEGD’s jury applauded Gagarin for making accessibility a core value of these projects’ methodologies.
Moreover, visitors to the museum have appreciated the efforts. When Quoros Consulting surveyed them, 94 per cent said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the CMHR experience.