Designed and due to be presented by the team of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Signing Museums for Kids is a free family phone app offering the first in Russia dictionary of contemporary art terms in Russian Sign Language.
In 2015, Garage became the first museum in Russia to launch a department of inclusive programs thus setting an important mission—to develop conditions for a museum experience that would be accessible for all visitors and engage the country’s museum, professional, and pedagogical communities in a dialogue.
The work with deaf and hard of hearing visitors is a major direction in the Museum’s activity in the field of inclusion. After only a year of its existence, Garage’s Inclusive Programs Department released the first Russian Dictionary of Contemporary Art Terms in RSL in the format of a video course. The Museum currently organizes over seventy events for deaf and hard of hearing audiences per year, with more than 1500 deaf people, including children and teenagers, visiting Garage annually. In the process of developing tours, events, and courses for deaf and hard of hearing kids in and outside of the Museum, Garage staff came to the conclusion that deaf elementary school pupils have no access to literature on art and there are no sources of information about contemporary art terms and concepts available at school. Aiming to change the situation and drawing on the experience of preparing a dictionary of art terms in RSL for adults, Garage’s Inclusive Programs Department has developed the application Signing Museums for Kids.
Signing Museums for Kids is a learning phone app featuring multiple videos and illustrations, using which children (together with or independently from parents) will be able to learn new things about Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and the art world in general. The game structure of the application makes learning a captivating and exciting process, while its simple interface allows children to use the app without the help of adults. For example, the section Vocabulary is designed as a set of five virtual spaces, from a painting gallery to a cabinet of arts, each containing various objects. Clicking the objects opens videos in Russian Sign Language, with Russian subtitles, that offer the object’s definition and description. The demonstration of each term is made in the form of a short video where deaf children explain art categories using sign language, with all videos accompanied by interactive illustrations. The first version of the app includes twenty-four terms, with its library due to be supplemented and broadened.
A special quiz based around the interconnection between verbal and sign languages is set to help consolidate the acquired knowledge. Each round of the quiz contains ten questions which do not repeat and include a demonstration of a short sign followed by the task to choose the right answer from three given options.
Garage staff are hopeful that the application Signing Museums for Kids will be useful for cultural institutions to become closer to the deaf community, discover common ground with deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, and draw the attention of specialists, sign language interpreters, and pedagogues working with deaf students at schools and pre-school education institutions.