The Andy Warhol Museum announces the launch of a fully redesigned website and the installation of tactile art reproductions in its galleries with a focus on accessibility. Through these projects as well as the Out Loud inclusive audio guide, the museum is leading the way in its field by combining technology and enhanced museum experiences to overcome barriers for people with disabilities. In May, the audio guide received the American Alliance of Museums gold MUSE award for mobile applications, one of the nation’s highest honors for projects of its kind.
The Warhol worked with Spellerberg Associates and Everything Type Company for development and design of The Warhol’s updated website at warhol.org. The museum also worked with Prime Access Consulting, Inc., led by Sina Bahram, president, to make the site accessible to users with a wide range of abilities and preferences. The website achieves WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 AA compliance and improves the web experience for visitors across a spectrum of abilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing; interact with the site via only keyboard or mouse due to limited mobility/motor control; people who are blind or have low vision and use a screen reader or employ zoom tools to enlarge the page; and users with cognitive disabilities.
In addition, the new site features bold colors and expressive typography to reflect the spirit of Andy Warhol. Its mobile-first design encourages scrolling, allowing users to quickly access rich content. A new “Andy Warhol’s Life” page illustrates the artist’s life story through the museum’s collection objects. The “Visit the museum” section is accessible from any page on the site, allowing potential visitors to quickly find the information they need to plan their visit. The new site makes it easier for visitors to tailor their museum experience and find what they are looking for by surfacing relevant information for families, people seeking accessible offerings, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and more.
“Warhol.org is the first stop for virtually all Warhol visitors and a primary way of interacting with the museum for international audiences,” Desi Gonzalez, manager of digital engagement, says. “Just as we foster inclusive experiences in our galleries, we also endeavor to welcome online visitors of all backgrounds and abilities.”
“Working on inclusive design with amazing partners like Desi Gonzalez and her colleagues at The Andy Warhol Museum is the highlight of the work we do at Prime Access Consulting,” says Bahram. “We are honored to have been a part of the process to help the museum realize an accessible website!”
In addition to launching a redesigned website, The Warhol also announces the installation of over a dozen tactile reproductions of selected works from the museum’s collection that tell the story of Andy Warhol’s life and his expansive artistic practice through touch. These reproductions depict the formal and stylistic elements of signature Warhol works in a range of media from throughout the artist’s career, including drawings, paintings, prints, film, and sculpture. They are accompanied by audio recordings on the Out Loud inclusive audio guide that walk visitors through the experience of feeling the reproductions and visualizing the original artwork.
The new suite of tactile displays includes a highly-detailed 3D reproduction of Brillo Soap Pads Box, one of Warhol’s iconic Pop Art sculptures from 1964. Based on new digital scans of the original artwork, visitors can explore small but significant variations on each surface of the work while learning about Warhol’s process.
The reproductions were designed and fabricated by J. David Whitewolf of Tactile Reproductions LLC, and audio content was developed in collaboration with Prime Access Consulting, Inc. The pieces are made of acetal, a durable and hygienic thermoplastic using a CNC (computer numerical controlled) router to etch digital files—etching a single piece can require up to 80 hours of machine time.
While the tactile displays are specifically designed to be accessible to museum visitors who are blind or have low vision, they are engaging for all visitors and can prompt a closer examination and deeper experience of the artworks.
The Warhol has been contacted by art museums nationally and internationally who are interested in using the tactile displays as a model for accessibility at their own sites, and the museum’s staff has been providing advice and technical assistance to colleagues.
“Andy Warhol was deeply appreciative of difference. In that spirit, we’re working to create an inclusive and innovative museum that welcomes and celebrates diversity with universally designed exhibitions and visitor experiences,” says Danielle Linzer, director of learning and public engagement. “It is our hope that our efforts can serve as a model for the field and that we can support other institutions by sharing what we’ve learned.”