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  • Writer's pictureBlue Trunk

Business Spotlight: Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Blue Trunk had the privilege of discussing accessibility with Lauren Maupin, the Education and Program Manager at Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. They share many of our core values and we are so excited to have them as the first museum listed in Charlottesville. Read on below to learn more about the museum and check out their Blue Trunk profile here.

Could you tell us about your business?

We are the only museum devoted to Indigenous Australian art outside of Australia, and we’re part of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. We have an art collection of more than 2000 objects and we always have two exhibitions on view at a time. We also regularly bring Indigenous artists and knowledge holders to Virginia to speak about their art and culture, and one of our central values is prioritizing their voices and creating a platform for them to share. We’re pretty much the closest you can get to Australia without that really long plane ride!

Why is accessibility important to you?

As a museum that values education, we want what we do to be accessible to everyone and inclusivity is one of our central values. We occupy a historic house which was not intended as a public space, so I think many visitors assume it won’t be very accessible. And while we do have very real limitations and challenges, we are doing a lot to create and extend access. This value of accessibility and inclusivity goes beyond our physical space to our website and programs as well, and even to our membership program. We also know that disabilities and health conditions affect everyone, including Indigenous Australians, and we want to continue to be a ‘home away from home’ for Indigenous Australians visiting the United States. Some Indigenous Australian artists are using their art as a tool for reconciliation, for revealing tragic histories of oppression and exclusion. What kind of institution would we be if we promoted reconciliation and diversity in our exhibitions, but didn’t support people in our community with disabilities, who themselves have also experienced oppression and exclusion? We also believe in the magic of discovery and fascination that comes with traveling, and the Kluge-Ruhe experience isn’t dissimilar because you get to immerse yourself in an art and culture that is totally new to you. That kind of experience shouldn’t just be accessible to some people. We all need beauty and discovery in our lives!

What motivated you to join Blue Trunk?

We recently had someone at our university evaluate how we could make our website more accessible, and she suggested that we needed a lot more information there about what accommodations we can and do make for visitors. Blue Trunk was an amazing resource because it lists many of the questions relevant to someone who has these concerns when visiting an attraction, some of which we didn’t even know about or think of because of our privilege! It has been great to link to our Blue Trunk profile so everyone can get the information they need to know what to expect before visiting. And, I think it’s great for people who need this information to be able to have a central resource to go to – whether they’re traveling or just figuring out how to get out of the house during COVID-19 lockdowns!

How do you see accessibility playing a role in your business?

I’m not sure it has always been a top priority but I’m glad we’re working to change that! There’s a lot more we can do and I’m excited to incorporate these items as goals to work toward.

What thoughts or lessons learned around accessibility would you want to share with other business owners?

It’s not as hard to be accommodating as what you might think! Sometimes it’s just about the small changes. At the same time, if you never prioritize it, you won’t ever be more accessible.

Is there anything you would want to share with travelers visiting Blue Trunk’s site?

Come visit Kluge-Ruhe! And let us know what you need – we are always overjoyed to accommodate!


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