Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

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Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries. Please note that to apply you must have attended at least two of the following training days:

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Learning and Engagement application guidance 2018

Click here to download the application form

 

Autism and Museums

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Freelancer Jo Gillam has been supporting Chelmsford Museum to improve access for autistic visitors. Here she gives us an introduction to autism and changes museums can make…

World Autism Awareness Week (27th March-2nd April 2017) is a good time to consider how to make your museum more autism-friendly….

30 years ago, my brother was labelled as unfriendly, difficult, and having a ‘mental handicap’. Today, he’s described as having autism plus learning disabilities. Autism is certainly a word that many people recognise now but how many know what it means? How can your museum be more welcoming to people with autism and their families?

What is autism and who can have it?

Autism is a lifelong condition thought to be caused by a combination of genetics, brain development and part of the natural variety among brains. i.e. ‘neurodiversity’. It affects 1 in a 100 people in the UK – women as well as men. There’s no evidence that it’s more prevalent than before or that any ethnic or socio-economic group has a greater propensity to it than others.

Autism isn’t a learning difficulty, a learning disability, or a mental health problem. Some people with autism do have mental health issues, not least because they can find life extremely stressful. About 50% of people with autism have a learning disability. Sometimes this is severe but all people with autism can learn and develop with the right support. About 10% of people with autism have high intelligence (the preferred term is ‘high functioning’). Until recently, this was diagnosed as Asperger syndrome which is a term still commonly used. For some, far from being a disorder or disability, autism offers valuable abilities and unique perceptions. Examples of exceptional autistic contributors to society almost certainly include Mozart, Einstein and Turing.

How does autism affect everyday life?

Autism affects how a person processes information, relates to others, makes sense of the world and how they experience it through their senses. To people who don’t have autism, these differences are invisible. What they notice is behaviour caused by the difficulties created by a mis-match between autistic differences and the surrounding world. How people react to this behaviour makes a big difference to the emotional well-being of people with autism, who often feel excluded from social activities.

How can your museum help people with autism?

Some of the most effective changes you can make are also the cheapest!

  • Promote patience and understanding when someone behaves unexpectedly in your museum.
  • Limit the number of questions you ask and allow more time than may seem comfortable for the person to reply.
  • Be direct. People with autism commonly take things literally so try not to cause confusion by using statements like “I’ll be back in a second”.
  • Don’t feel offended if someone doesn’t engage with your friendly small talk as this is something people with autism can find uncomfortable.

Parents often feel that they are judged to be inadequate when their autistic child has a meltdown. The real reason may be that the child is being overloaded with sensory input. For an insight into how this feels, take a look at this powerful little film made by the National Autistic Society (NAS): Too Much Information

Small changes to your museum can make a big difference and help other visitors at the same time.

It can seem daunting to make your museum more autism-friendly, when autism is so diverse. After all, how do you manage hypo (low) sensitivity and hyper (high) sensitivity to certain stimuli such as light and sound within the same venue? The answer is flexibility and choice.

  • Make your light and volume settings adjustable. If this isn’t possible yet, provide visual and written information so that visitors can seek out or avoid particular areas.
  • Advertise times when your museum is most quiet or open it for special Early Bird/Night Owl sessions when you turn down/off some sensory experiences.
  • Ideally, offer a low sensory area where someone who feels overloaded can take a break.
  • Loan relaxing objects like stress balls and stimulating, sensory kits which can be carried around.

Most visitors or their carers will know what they find challenging and may bring their own aids such as ear defenders. At Chelmsford Museum, we offer free pairs just in case.

Changes made to help visitors with autism, often improve conditions for other people with access needs. Avoiding ‘busy’ floor or wall patterns, for example, also helps people who suffer from certain visual impairments, dementia, epilepsy or migraines.

Full and honest pre-visit information can be a key to unlocking future visits

Potential visitors with particular needs can come to expect poor access and so not consider coming. Consequently, providing clear, accessible pre-visit information (and advertising this) is crucial. For people with autism, who often find breaks from routine and unfamiliar situations intimidating, having floor plans, images and outlines of what they can expect at a museum, can make the difference between whether or not they visit.

Museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum (London) are leading the way in autism accessibility. These and other examples are listed by blogger Tincture of Museum.

On a smaller scale, Chelmsford Museum is developing its own resources aimed at visitors with autism and their families. We’re working towards achieving the NAS’s Autism Friendly Award. I’m teaching the team how they can make the museum more autism-friendly and would be delighted to provide training elsewhere. We’re also holding an event for World Autism Awareness Day (1pm-4pm 2nd April 2017) aimed at everyone. It would be great to see you there!

For further information, try these organisations:

The National Autistic Society | – NAS

Autism in museums | Network Autism

Ambitious about Autism

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Jo Gillam, Freelance Heritage Professional

Mob 07754 130145   

Email: 1joprice@gmail.com

Twitter: @1accessforall

If you would like to learn more about how your museum can support people with autism, Jo will be talking about her work with Chelmsford at this event in June.

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

colchester-alison-stockmarr

Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

 

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

 

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries.

 

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

 

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 28th February 2017

Guidance Document: learning-and-engagement-application-guidance-2017

Application Form: learning-and-engagement-application-form-2017

 

Opening Doors: Notes on Rethinking Disabled Access and Interpretation

On 15th September 2015, the Museums Association ran a one day seminar entitled Opening doors:  Rethinking Disabled Access and Interpretation In Your Museum. Amanda Peacock, Learning Officer at Chelmsford Museum, attended that day with a grant from Essex Museum Development and has kindly shared her notes from the day:

I wanted to share with you some of the interesting ideas and forward-looking practice that were presented at this excellent MA Seminar on the theme of disabled access and interpretation in the museum. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), now in its 20th year, was established to prevent discrimination against disabled people accessing goods, services and buildings amongst other things. Other than a lift to get to the top floor and a disabled loo, I was interested to learn what museums could do to further improve access for disabled visitors to their collections as well as to the building itself. Also how, or if, disabled people are represented in museums, whether museum collections include objects that reflect the lives of, or have been created by disabled people in our society past or present. Throughout the day there was a live speech-to-text transcription displayed on a big screen. This service was provided by a company called ‘StageText’, which provides access to deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors.

Tony Heaton, chief executive of Shape Arts and our Chair for the day, made the comment in his introduction that, ‘museums should be fully inclusive and welcome people with disabilities not only as visitors, but employees and artists too.’ Improving access and facilities for disabled visitors can be a challenge for those institutions that are in listed buildings, but access is not just about installing a lift, what about intellectual access? Museums need to consider their collections, are they fully accessible to disabled visitors or are there barriers that discriminate? How do they use them – is there appropriate gallery support such as: audio visual aids, subtitles on videos, handbooks, appropriate lighting, considerate interpretation or clear signage?

Jocelyn Dodd and Richard Sandell from the University of Leicester spoke about their work with museums in relation to disability access, participation and representation. A variety of organisations were involved in the project, which challenged museums and heritage sites to look at their own collections in a different way. They evaluated displays for diversity, searched databases for relevant material and considered how they would interpret these objects with disability in mind. One of the more important outcomes was that museums should work more collaboratively with disabled visitors, rather than stating what the museum can offer them. Overall, the project enabled museums to explore the potential to reframe collective attitudes towards difference.

Next to speak was Emma Shepley, Senior curator at the Royal College of Physicians, who discussed its award-winning portraiture exhibition ‘Re-framing disability’, that explored four centuries of hidden history through rare portraits from the 17th to the 19th centuries, depicting disabled men and women of all ages and walks of life. The 2011 project involved 27 disabled participants who explored the human stories behind the portraits and discussed the relevance to their lives. The project culminated in an exhibition of recorded interviews, essays and photographic portraits that went on tour to ten venues, including the House of Parliament!

Anna Harnden, museums, galleries and heritage programme manager at VocalEyes, lead an interesting participatory exercise around object interpretation for blind and partially sighted visitors and those with other sensory impairments. Delegates were given a picture of an object and had to think about the barriers visitors might face in accessing it and how other senses could be utilised for fuller engagement. There were lots of great suggestions, but Anna did emphasise that it is not enough to just describe an object, the reasons why it is important to the museum’s collection is equally important.

To end the Seminar, Becki Morris, collections assistant at Heritage and Culture Warwickshire, explored in some depth how visitors with ‘invisible disabilities’ (dyslexia and other neurodiversity conditions), experience museums and Trizia Wells, inclusion manager at Eureka! (The National Children’s Museum) highlighted how its award winning access programme has been embedded throughout the museum. For example, they asked families what they wanted, which included: an inclusive, welcoming attitude from staff members, affordable and appropriate activities and clear information for visitors. As a result, the museum developed: a training programme for all staff (including online courses), free activities tailored to specific disabilities, support from local groups, an ‘access’ tab on the homepage of the website, a DVD virtual tour of the museum and weekend and holiday clubs to name but a few! In conclusion, the museums that are most effective at removing barriers to access seem to be those that collaborate closely with disabled people and adjust their offer accordingly.