Museums Northumberland to launch a brand-new set of experiences that will make two of its museums more accessible to people with autism and/or communication difficulties.
Launched during World Autism Awareness Week (29 March – 4 April 2021), thanks to funding from the Wellesley Trust Fund (through the Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland), the new experiences have been co created with groups of young people from across the county who are disengaged with heritage or who have a disability which is currently preventing them from fully experiencing the museums and the collections.
Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland said, “We’re delighted to be sharing Northumberland’s stories in partnership with our communities. I’m really grateful to all our project partners for their dedication during the pandemic, and for their intriguing perspectives on what makes our collections unique. We’ve learned a lot from their insight and look forward to engaging with more diverse audiences through these exciting tours.”
The pandemic changed the planned project engagement from group workshops to explore and see behind the scenes at the museums, to frequent online sessions. Taking the workshops and activities online removed some of the barriers facing young people in terms of attending a new location, encountering unfamiliar sights and sounds and working with other people they may not know, in favour of small groups meeting online each week and getting to know each other and the museums with a view to visiting when Covid19 restrictions are lifted.
Sessions at Hexham Old Gaol were delivered in partnership with Projectors, a drama-based initiative for young people aged 18 to 30 with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or communication difficulties. The group developed a name and story for the new museum experience.
Katarate Tales from the Jails is a story that brings a contemporary twist to the Hexham Riot of 1761. Participants created backstories to those injured in the riot in Hexham Market Square, developing a new interactive resource which will enable museum visitors to encounter different experiences as part of their visit.
Sue Betts, Projector’s Creative Facilitator, said, “Working with Museums Northumberland on this project has given the Projectors group a new outlet for their creative talents, and validated their creativity. It has given them a sense of inclusion: something that is all too often missing. It was great fun too. They are looking forward to seeing their stories in the museum context.”
A similar experience is being developed at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, inspired by the town’s connections with L S Lowry.
The resources will be installed at their respective museums in June 2021.
There is still an opportunity to get involved in the project. If you are aged 14 to 30, or a school or community group that is made up of people who are disabled, disadvantaged or disengaged from heritage, Museums Northumberland would love to hear from you. We are looking for volunteers to test out the stories or get involved and write or draw some new characters. For more information contact Mark Macleod firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Community Foundation
The Community Foundation matches generous people with important community causes. Every year, the Foundation award grants to hundreds of small charities in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and across North East England, through funds set up by a range of donors.
The Newcastle-based charity, the UK’s biggest Community Foundation, has built a portfolio of funds that tackles the vital issues in our community.