A safe place to visit

October 26, 2010

Consultation with groups of people with intellectual disabilities revealed that ‘feeling safe’ in a museum environment is key to successful visits.

Today I was lucky enough to attend two programs run by the Leicester Arts and Museums Outreach programs, and had a chat to Linda Harding, who coordinates the programs. A current priority is to create opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to access to the museum collections and buildings. Linda explained that during the consultation phase, they learned that coming into the museum when it is too busy and bustling can be an impedement to people with intellectual disabilities – they can be made to feel uncomfortable with people staring. So Linda’s programs are arranged to ensure that people feel safe and confident in the museum spaces.

This morning I sat in on a session with a group of Muslim women from Ansaar. Linda showed us various objects from the collection – telephones, radios and cameras, and we discussed how they had changed over time. We had a look around the galleries, and we did a craft activity. We even managed to fit in a cup of tea before lunch!

New Walk Museum in Leicester

Then this afternoon, I sat in on a workshop with some young people with learning difficulties. Over the past few weeks they have been exploring the New Walk Museum’s Ancient Egyptian collections, and today they worked with drama and dance practitioners to explore the ideas in more detail.

Consultation is a key part in all the Outreach work – the young people chose the theme they wanted to explore and also the medium in which they wanted to explore it. Linda also told me that over the past five years they have hosted community forums about many aspects of the museum – collection development, customer service, interpretation etc – to which community groups are invited to send representatives. Held three times a year, the forums run for about two hours, and provide a chance for people to share thier views about the work of the museums.



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