Wisconsin is “Hidden” no more: Argo Translation helps Milwaukee Public Museum translate its first bilingual exhibition

What do Argo Translation and the Milwaukee Public Museum have in common? The desire for Spanish-speaking visitors to fully engage in the museum’s new exhibition, “Hidden Wisconsin,” open now through Jan. 8, 2017.

Dawn Koceja, Accessibility Coordinator for the Milwaukee Public Museum, shared the genesis of the museum’s first bilingual exhibit, featuring artifacts and stories on topics ranging from wildlife and fossils to shipwrecks and speakeasies.

“About a year ago, the museum started to recognize that we needed to put more effort and more thought into our access and inclusion services,” she said. “I was approached by several Latino communities (about offering text in Spanish) … and I didn’t have any staff members who could translate. It wasn’t going to be a very text-heavy exhibit,” Koceja said of “Hidden Wisconsin,” so the museum explored the feasibility of doing bilingual labels and then wrote a successful grant to a local foundation that helped fund the initiative.

Next, she set out to find a group who could handle such a project. “I researched a few different companies, but I liked (Argo’s) communication, access and certification,” Koceja said. “I contacted them and was immediately impressed.”

Argo translated all the materials for the exhibition, from signs on artifact labels to the online teacher resource materials, including pre-visit, on-site and post-visit activities, as well as the Exhibit Explorer Guide questions.

While the museum’s design team worked on incorporating the Spanish translation into the specific layout of the exhibit, two Argo translators worked on the month-long project; one to translate all the material, and a second who served as editor of the translations, “to keep it consistent” as part of the company’s standard workflow, said Paul Kujawa, Argo’s Business Development Manager. He and Argo Founder Peter Argondizzo had the opportunity to tour the museum as the project got under way and were impressed by the museum staff’s commitment. “Everyone was passionate about their work. It was contagious,” Kujawa said.

The end result has met with positive public reaction, thanks in part to promotion from local Spanish-speaking TV and radio stations. “We’re getting some great feedback,” Koceja said. “We just want our museum to be open and welcoming to everyone, serving our immediate population, our school groups and families.”

As part of the ongoing partnership with Argo, she said, “We’re looking at other projects to translate: a visitor map, a basic “Q & A” (document), and moving forward, new traveling exhibits. It’s definitely something we are going to continue.”

In traveling to trainings with other museums, Koceja said the importance of translating materials has come to the forefront. “This is a conversation in museums,” she said.

Koceja said she has been impressed with her Argo Translation experience: “The quality of this project had to be 100 percent because it’s a public exhibit. It exceeded my expectation.”

For more information on the “Hidden Wisconsin” exhibition, click here.