Improving museum access practice

picture1Monday’s post about the VocalEyes report on The State of Museum Access for people with Disabilities drew a lot of attention on social media from professionals seeking or driving change in their own institutions. I’ve had some really good conversations about breaking down barriers and heard about some excellent resources, and I thought it only fair to share!

It was particularly brilliant to hear from Roz Chalmers (@elsiebiades) who is a freelance audio describer and trainer, Thanh Sinden at Culture Coventry who is currently reviewing access practice in-house, and Becki Morris,  a museum professional specialising in inclusion and representation of Disabilities in museums.

Becki drew my attention to the Disability Co-operative Network in Museums, which is committed to raising the profile of inclusive practice in the museum, heritage and cultural sectors.  You can follow them on twitter @museumDCN.

DCN aims to raise confidence, challenge preconceptions and reduce barriers to service delivery by broadening audience participation and engagement.  They work with corporations, businesses, charities, organisations and individuals to identify and challenge barriers, support inclusive service delivery, technological innovation and attract disabled talent to the workplace.

Their website is available to all museums, art galleries, heritage sites and cultural venues and includes free resources and case studies contributed by heritage, arts, charity and corporate sector organisations.  It also includes a free virtual exhibition space for disabled artists which includes profiles and links to the artist’s website.

One long term goal for the website is to begin a blog for disabled people to share and feedback on their experiences of cultural venues.  For further information, you can contact DCN directly.

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New report published: MEDIEVAL ABBERLEY REVEALED

Researching and writing evaluation reports is fascinating and enjoyable part of my work.  It is a privilege to be able to follow project teams and volunteers as they deliver complex community activity and then to be able to reflect back to them the impact their work has had.

Excavating for Abberley Castle. An added bonus of evaluating the Medieval Abberley Revealed project!

Excavating for Abberley Castle. An added bonus of evaluating the Medieval Abberley Revealed project!

This week, I finished work on the evaluation report for MEDIEVAL ABBERLEY REVEALED, an HLF-funded Medieval Abberley Revealed community archaeology project which took place over 12 months, and built upon the enthusiasm for local history sparked by the popular Abberley Lives 20th century history project of 2012-2013.

Participation levels on this project were really high, with over 13% of the village either volunteering or attending an event.  The social and well-being outcomes were very strong – even long-time residents expressed how much they had enjoyed meeting new neighbours and volunteering with friends.

The activities seemed to generate a genuine sense of occasion, drawing volunteers aged from 9 to 90 years.  As a local resident and member of the AHPS said later:

‘We joined Abberley Hills Preservation Society but it went dormant for a while.  This activity has revived it all and we have met a lot of people we had never met before. It’s brought us together to fight against [the proposed] houses.  I would absolutely do it again.’

This was the first project evaluation where I was able to use multi-media sources to provide evidence of activity.  Several of the participants have very active social media feeds, so I was able to collate real-time responses during activity and save them using Storify.  I also trained project volunteers to be able to blog so that they could encourage each other to share their reflections online via the Abberley Lives website.

Furthermore, with the advice and assistance of Clear Picture Productions, I have also recorded and edited my first short films for the project website that capture the excitement and curiosity generated during live events.

Thanks very much to Abberley Hills Preservation Society for hiring me to do this lovely piece of work, and for giving me the chance to explore new means of gathering evidence.

Download the report: Medieval Abberley Revealed evaluation

The Workshop on Newspapers & Stone

Bit of an unusual request this one, and no, it is not the academic prequel to GRR Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire sequence.

Instead, it’s an interesting commission from the Earth Heritage Trust, whose volunteers are busy researching sources for A Thousand Years of Building with Stone.  Given the tremendous number of documentary sources out there, my workshop will focus on how to structure database searches and how to make the best use of any basic clues to lead you to the answers.

So far, one of the best clues to use are the foundation stones laid with great enthusiasm by our forebears – where there’s a stone, there’s a news article, and behind that article can be a wealth of information concerning architect, building contractors, design purpose and nature of stone used.  Take, for example, Worcester’s own City Library:

Worcester Library collage_web

Searches on INFOTRAC News Vault (available for free to Worcestershire Libraries members) for the Worcester Library opening event were no use, as it turns out that when the building was erected it was known entirely as the Victoria Institute.  Therefore, by changing the search parameters to use the known data (‘Worcester’, ‘Lygon’ and a restricted date search), I was able to find both the report of the Opening Ceremony in the Times Newspaper Archive, and a series of commemorative articles about the event in the Worcester Journal (using the British Newspaper Archive).  For the Times article, see SUCCESSFUL SEARCH_Worcs Victoria Inst 1896-10-01.

There are a large number of newspaper and periodical resources available online, some for free and others which charge a fee.  This is where library membership comes up trumps as most county services subscribe to at least one of these archives.  For details, look for your library service’s 24 Hour Library or e-Resources page.  In Worcestershire, library members who visit the Hive can also access a range of additional academic journals through the University subscriptions service including the British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography and JStor.

For a quick overview of online news & periodical resources see this guide from the National Archives: TNA_Guide to newspapers_2014-10-20

For a guide to Herefordshire Libraries e-Resources see: e-resources_Herefordshire Libraries 2014-10-20

For a guide to Worcestershire Libraries e-Resources, including those at the Hive, see: eResources_Worcs Libraries 2014-10-20 and e-resources_The Hive 2014-10-20

For an introduction to using the British Newspaper Archive, see: Intro to British Newspaper Archive