Museum of London
2009 Digital Access Online Winner
Podcasts from the Past is a set of audio description podcasts that have been created to allow visually impaired visitors increased access to some of the galleries at Museum of London, London Wall.
The podcasts provide descriptions of ten objects in the London before London and Medieval galleries, providing an aural route into the collections. Though designed for visually impaired visitors, they are suitable for everyone, with dynamic visual content accompanying the audio description. Encouraging engagement with the artefacts in a multisensory way, the podcasts can enable people with different learning styles to achieve a fulfilling museum experience. They can be listened to online or downloaded to be taken to the Museum. Run as part of the Museum’s social inclusion programme, the podcasts were created by a group of eight long-term unemployed people of different ages and social backgrounds, working one day a week for two months. Working as a team they gained new skills and experiences that they can use in the future. Their input increases accessibility not only for visually impaired people, but also for the general public as they are real, ‘everyday’ inhabitants of London.
The project took place between January and March 2008 at a cost of £5,000.
Museum of London is one of the world’s largest urban history museums and cares for over two million objects in its collection. It runs an extensive programme of events and education projects for a wide range of ages and learning abilities. There is a Disability Group of people with a variety of disabilities which advises the Museum, and a Disability Working Group made up of Museum staff. Museum of London, Docklands offers monthly tours on different topics for visually impaired visitors. New galleries opening soon will include touch objects and Braille caption panels. Displays also include film, audio and visual content.
Workshops were held with VocalEyes and visually impaired people to shape the content, form and suitability of the podcasts for their target audience. A visually impaired member of the Museum staff also spent time with the group to provide feedback. This was important for helping the group decide how long to make the podcasts and what ratio of objects should be on open display or in cases. They undertook tours of the Museum, researched the objects they had chosen for inclusion then wrote and edited the scripts. They brought them to life by recording, producing and editing the podcasts through workshops with SoundDelivery The project provided learning and social opportunities which took precedent over the outputs. Comments from participants include: I learnt that even objects which seem hard to describe can be described in your own way. I learnt how to communicate with other people and listen to their opinions.
The project represents a small pilot intended to be extended in the future to create more podcasts, offering them as an in-gallery resource and investing in marketing to reach possible users. Any future expansion of the project would include more research time to explore target audiences and, as museum staff feel more confident with social media, efforts to make the podcasts available on the web, which would enhance the participants’ learning.