Lights Up – Disability access and Museums

Hello! Just a quick post today as I am busy with my group’s exhibition. I saw advertised today an event called “Lights Up” which was being ran by the Mary Rose Museum (see this link: http://www.maryrose.org/lights-up/). I had a click on the link and read what the project was and I thought that it was a fantastic idea.

The idea of the project is that for two hours on three mornings, the lights within the museum will be raised to a higher level than normal in order to accommodate those with ‘visual impairments or those with other medical and physical conditions’.[1] Usually, the museum has quite a low light setting because of the delicate nature of their collections. However, for some people, these lighting conditions can be a barrier to ‘appreciating’ the collection and the museum.[2]

I think that this is a wonderful idea. Disability awareness within museums is a field that is getting ever more attention within museology and is something that, within my group’s exhibition, we are taking seriously and trying to incorporate. Museums and their collections/ stories are there for everyone to enjoy and I am so passionate about enabling this to happen.

Sometimes, however, full accessibility cannot be achieved because of a variety of reasons. These are mainly centred around conservation, but are really focused on ensuring the longevity of the life span of an object for future generations to access and learn from them. Objects, such as those within the Mary Rose Museum, are so fragile that factors such as light and relative humidity, need to be considered carefully and monitored closely. Thus, unfortunately, sometimes, this can be a barrier to people’s enjoyment.

However, the Mary Rose Museum have thought of a compromise between this situation. Although being exposed to higher that normal light levels, it will be restricted to two hours a day. These levels will have probably been calculated carefully so that the Lux and UV levels will not exceed the desired levels for each year. Yet, by offering this, they are helping to expand the accessibility of their collection and allowing those who may not have been able to, to enjoy and learn from it. After all, it is a stunning and rare collection!

This post and my MA course has made me more aware of disability within museums, both physical and mental, and I really hope that I can make a difference during my career and ensure that, wherever I work, I make it as open and accessible to everybody. I want everyone to enjoy history or natural collections or art! At present a lot of focus is on those with hearing/ visual impairments and learning difficulties however, I would like, at some point, to expand upon existing research into museums and mental health. Can museums help? But I digress with my musings.

Thanks to the Mary Rose Museum, I have begun to think beyond subtitles, large print, handling sessions. Starting to think of just some small little changes like lighting levels, could make massive difference, even if they are just for an hour of two due to the conservation of the objects.

If anyone is interested in visiting, the link to the site is: http://www.maryrose.org/lights-up/ and the mornings that the event will be occurring on are:

27th February 2017 10 am – 12pm

31st March 2017 10 am – 12 pm

5th June 2017 10 am  – 12 pm

Thank you for reading!

[1] The Mary Rose Museum, ”Lights Up” Mornings at the Mary Rose Museum, <http://www.maryrose.org/lights-up/&gt; [accessed 1/2/2017].

[2] Ibid.

mary-rose
The Mary Rose. Picture from http://www.maryrose.org/lights-up/.
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