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Days of Giveaways

MSU Students, Smithsonian Partner on Accessible Design

In a creative collaboration, a multidisciplinary team of Michigan State University students have worked with the Smithsonian Institution to test a new approach to accessible design using the Smithsonian exhibition “Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest,” which currently on view at the MSU Museum. Through innovative technology and educational initiatives, the students are paving the way for enhanced accessibility and engagement for visitors nationwide.

A key component of this partnership is the development of a cutting-edge digital concierge service that leverages radio-frequency identification technology. This digital concierge service empowers visitors with visual impairment to self-identify preferences for accessible options within the exhibition. By employing the state-of-the-art technology, the MSU Museum and the Smithsonian are ensuring that all visitors, regardless of their abilities, can fully engage with the content of the exhibition.

In addition to the digital concierge service, another team of MSU students has created an engaging exhibition-based game that not only fosters learning but also amplifies visitor engagement. The endeavor seeks to encourage curiosity, build empathy and inspire action while exploring the themes of climate change, Indigenous perspectives and the intricate relationship between people and nature.

“Through our unwavering commitment to supporting student-led initiatives, the MSU Museum is fostering a culture of learning and creativity, driving impactful outcomes, furthering our reputation as a leader in education, and building our relationship with the Smithsonian,” said MSU Museum Director Devon Akmon.

The MSU Museum was selected as the inaugural venue to host the “Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest” in April 2023. The exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, which emphasizes the importance of the world’s northernmost forests, features first-person stories, commissioned objects, interactive experiences, and photographic and video content.

These collaborative projects are possible because the MSU Museum achieved the status of becoming Michigan’s inaugural affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in September 2001. The affiliate status provides the museum opportunities to engage in collaborative endeavors with the Smithsonian and fellow affiliates, fostering initiatives that benefit MSU and the state, as well as the Smithsonian national programs.

“Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest” is on view through Saturday, Nov. 11, in the main gallery at the MSU Museum.