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William Johnson House Receives National Accessibility Award

Natchez National Historical Park

National Park News

On October 26, 2005 in Washington DC, Natchez National Historical Park was honored with a National Accessibility Award for Design Project Achievement for the exhibits at the William Johnson House. The award is given to an individual, team, or park responsible for the design, construction or renovation of interpretive exhibits that creatively promote the concept of universal access and demonstrate how they meet the needs of people with disabilities.
In February, Natchez National Historical Park contracted, designed and fabricated a universally accessible exhibit for the William Johnson House, the antebellum home of a free black businessman and diarist. This project included many innovative and engaging components, such as:
A wheelchair accessible “Digital Diary” touch screen program which includes both text and dramatic narrations from William T. Johnson’s journals so that all visitors have an opportunity to intellectually and emotionally connect to the writings of William T. Johnson as he shares his insights into business, family life, and the news and politics of his age.
Two audio stations with sound cones were placed overtop of exhibit panels. One two-minute audio track entitled “Main Street Barbershop,” features white southern gentlemen in Johnson’s barber shop talking about elections and other activities in which a free black man like Johnson could not participate. The track includes effective sound effects of scissors cutting hair, the pouring of tonics, and sounds in the street outside the barbershop. The other sound station entitled “A Rich Family Life” highlights sounds of the Johnson household, such as children playing, period piano music, dogs barking, and family members talking, all to give a sense of the family environment in which Johnson penned his thoughts. This station also includes a writing desk that is wheelchair accessible.
• Hand-held MP3 players featuring fifty minutes of professional actors reading the exhibit text as essentially a narrated tour. The exhibit panels include a Braille number to key the visitor to the appropriate track.
Large acrylic models of three historic buildings detailing the size and architectural features of the Johnson House, his neighbor’s home and an 1897 kitchen building. The models include a recording for each building, which activates when touched. While the narration plays, there is a monitor behind the model that shows the script from audio track for visitors with hearing impairments. It is an effective “please touch” product that engages everyone.
“The exhibits at the William Johnson House present many options for visitors with disabilities to learn more about Johnson’s life and world.” said National Park Service Director Fran Mainella. She also remarked on how Natchez National Historical Park received a Sustained Achievement in Accessibility Award in 2001, and continues to build on its success.”
The William Johnson House at 210 State Street is open Thursday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is free. Please call 601-446-5790 for more information.


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