Autism in Museums: Creating Autism-friendly pre-visit Resources for the Hunterian Museum

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A student post by Aimee Fletcher, Museum Studies (MSc) programme, University of Glasgow.

An introduction from Ruth Fletcher, Education Manager, The Hunterian

This project forms part of an overall drive to enhance The Hunterian’s accessibility provision, seeking to review our interpretation resources and support services to ensure that our displays and venues are as accessible as possible to diverse audiences with varying needs. As a university museum it is important to provide learning opportunities for University of Glasgow students.  Aimee Fletcher is one such student and we are lucky to have her helping us in the completion of this task.

As a part of my Museum Studies (MSc) programme, I am undertaking a work placement at The Hunterian. The project I have been working on is developing a pre-visit visual resource for visitors on the Autistic Spectrum or others who would benefit from having pre-visit information.

When I found out that this placement was available, I immediately contacted my course supervisor to request a course change onto the work placement. This is because accessibility and Autism in museums are two areas that are both personally and professionally important to me. As a Project Leader at a youth group for children on the Autistic Spectrum, which takes children and young people to museums and heritage institutions who may not otherwise have these opportunities, I know first-hand just how important it is to have these resources in place. The recent trend of creating such resources and Autism-friendly events is one I have welcomed, so to have the opportunity to combine my personal and work experience with my newly-developed museum theories to create such resources was one which I could not miss.

In order to develop the resources, I firstly started undertaking research into what was currently available in the sector to see how other museums are addressing the need for more pre-visit materials. It was clear that the ‘visual story’ format, one which takes inspiration from the almost universally used ‘social story’, is the most common choice for displaying pre-visit information. By using images of different aspects of the museum-ranging from what the displays are to fire safety information- visual resources offer the visitor an insight into what to expect from their visit and to prepare them with information which will make their visit more enjoyable.

Once I had completed my research into what else is available, I visited the Hunterian Museum at different times to try and understand what information the visual resource I was making would need. I started taking photographs of different parts of the museum to ensure I had a rounded resource; its entrance, specific displays and some practical facilities. These photographs and notes made during visits were then used to make the visual resource.

The resource is now being piloted on The Hunterian website. If you have any feedback on the resource, please email Aimee.Fletcher@glasgow.ac.uk or on Twitter to @aimee_speaks by the 5th of April. All feedback, positive or constructive, is appreciated. The final stage of my placement will be to use the feedback to make amendments to the pilot and to shape my summer project which continues the work I have started.

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