British Dental Association Museum

British Dental Association Museum

2010 Digital Access for People with a Learning Disability Winner

Exemplary qualities

The project is largely user led. The Museum, Siren Arts and Advocacy and Loud Minority were excellent facilitators in a project in which people with a learning disability learnt new skills, enjoyed themselves and shaped the content of the film. Participants led the way the project developed.

The film was of such quality as to be included in the Museum’s Key-Stage 2 learning materials. By celebrating the abilities of learning disabled people, it contributes to changing public perceptions of people with a learning disability

The Project

This project was part of a wider ‘Medicine at the Movies’ project, undertaken with five other medical museums across the UK. Medicine at the Movies involved working with under-represented audiences. in museums. The included oler people, refugees and asylum seekers, deaf and hard of hearing people and mental health service users. Participants produced films inspired by the collections, gained new skills and confidence. For some involvement in a Medicine at the Movies project was life-changing.

The British Dental Association Museum worked with people with a learning difficulty. It wanted to extend its engagement with people with with a learning difficulty. It is known that people with a learning difficulty have less access to health information. This prompted the museum to engage in a project which increases knowledge of dental hygiene, in a fun and exploratory way. People with a learning difficulty also have limited access to multi-media technologies that are widely available to the rest of the population. Yet these can powerfully support communication and self-expression.

The project involved introducing the participants to the collection through a guided tour of the museum, watching archive film and handling of original artefacts. This ran alongside learning film-making techniques with a variety of cameras and included learning about animation. Each participant was given the opportunity to contribute to the overall theme of the film and to decide if they wanted to make their own individual film to be incorporated. Several participants made individual films which link in with the wider film, to which everybody contributed. This explores a visit to the museum and the collections. The film maker, Bhavesh Hindocha, was chosen to facilitate the project. His company, Loud Minority, specialises in working with marginalised communities and giving people the tools, knowledge and support to express themselves through film making.

The resulting film not only illustrates the learning procedure but also the enthusiasm and sheer pleasure of the participants in the creative processes that they so rarely get the opportunity to be involved in. Links to the complete film on You Tube and three individual films are available on the BDA website.

The project culminated in a special screening of the film at the Thackray Museum in Leeds in March this year alongside the films made by the other Medicine at the Movies museums.

The film is now included in the museum’s learning materials for Key-Stage 2 curricilum activities.

The project was financed by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation through the Learning Revolution Transformation Fund.The total cost of the project was £13,871.33 with a further £2,100 given in kind.


Participants were recruited via Siren Arts & Advocacy, a project based at the Elfrida Society in Islington which works with people with learning difficulties.

Participants were able to draw on their own experiences; for example one participant made a film featuring herself and two of her friends. They were also encouraged to use talents they already had and the film makers incorporated these into the films. Harmonica music was played by one of the participants who has won competitions in this area. Another participant found a new outlet for her love of mosaic making by using it in an animation.

It was hoped that the film would be inspired by the collections, but the participants were given free rein to interpret this as they chose. They were able to choose what type of film they wanted to make (animation, documentary etc.) and what role they wished to take – writer, illustrator, animator, cameraman, director, voice over, interviewer etc. Several participants worked up storylines or prepared materials at home to bring in the following week.

“People with learning difficulties do not have many opportunities to explore digital technology and professional development as college courses predominantly focus on basic skills such literacy, numeracy, cooking and gardening. This project was a wonderful opportunity for people to learn how to use technology and express their creativity” (Inga Tillere, Assistant Manager, Siren Arts & Advocacy).

Other activities

The Museum provides a range of services for users. It is open to the public two afternoons per week and by appointment at other times. The Museum has an education service which covers audiences from pre-schoolers to retired persons, both in a formal and informal setting. Resources which can be used include loans boxes, teachers’ and students’ packs for ages 3 – 14. Services include structured visits to the museum for schools, outreach visits to schools, structured visits to the museum for adults (guided tour, object handling and other interactive elements),

Accessibility: the museum has taken a number of measures such as installing a hearing loop, making exhibition text available in large print and having an audio-visual guide to the history of dentistry on a screen in the museum. Handling sessions are promoted on our access leaflet. The museum has adapted its school sessions to cater for Special Educational Needs schools.

The future

The museum is planning a disability access audit in this financial year.

Each partner in the ‘Medicine at the Movies’ project will continue to utilise these films, as well as the connections established with their new learner groups. In some instances, this is simply the very proud display of the films produced, although other museums are working to develop an education resource around the films.

To leave a lasting legacy, Thackray Museum is producing a Medicine at the Movies toolkit for other museums planning to embark on digital film projects with under-reprsented groups, to share out the learning.