How we make London’s history accessible to visually impaired visitorsOctober 10, 2011 About my museum job, Adult events at our Museums, Blogs, Learning
Hello once again everyone, I am excited to share the latest news and developments from the Visitor Service Hosts over the last couple of weeks. In this post I would like to highlight the work that goes into developing one of our bespoke visitor tours.
Recently our Learning Project Manager Isabel was approached by a group of 15 visually impaired prospective visitors, who along with their helpers, were interested in coming along to the Museum of London.
With Isabel’s help, hosts Daniela, Arna and Ed created a bespoke object handling session using original artefacts tailored to the groups needs.
The group consisted of retired adults from various backgrounds, all very knowledgeable about British history, who once a year arrange a visit to a different city, and visit a particular museum.
This year, they arranged a visit to London and naturally, they chose the Museum of London to brush up on their knowledge of the capital.
The group requested three tours and three object handling sessions in our Roman, Medieval and War, Plague and Fire galleries.
For the Great Fire of London day they had a real brick to touch from Pudding Lane (dug from the excavation of 1979), a medieval bowling ball, and a bell from a post you would tie your horse to whenever you rode to London.
Arna also showed a money box which was used in London’s theatres dating from the 17th century and a toy gun that could apparently fire for real – and hurt people in those times.
Money boxes were used in 17th century theatres as we know that spectators would regularly watch one act and then decide to remain or leave; if they stayed they had to pay a fee. In the audience there were a lot of people carrying such money boxes in order to collect the cash from them. Once filled up these ‘assistants’ would then take the boxes to the office to count what collected. That’s why we still call it the ‘box office’.
I was present in the galleries during the tours as well as in our Clore Learning Centre for the object handling sessions and was not surprised to have received an excellent report from hosts and visitors alike. Ed told me that the whole experience was fun and interesting and the feedback from the group universally positive. Even the three lovely guide dogs seemed to have enjoyed it!
The part that they all enjoyed most were the handling sessions because it’s an experience that really allows you examine objects used and held many years ago and to connect with the past.
We have been trained to deliver tours to visually impaired visitors and we offer free daily VocalEyes tours whenever they are requested. This experience however is entirely different. Daniela, for example, learnt a new tour for the occasion and I am sure they gained some good knowledge of how to lead such groups around the Museum in future.
In collaboration with our Learning Department we are now considering developing the experience further so that it can be offered to other adult groups and children.
Visit our web page to find out more about our facilities for visitors with impairments.
I will write a new post soon on something absolutely special happening in November.
Keep reading my blog. Ciao!