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Help learners get the most from pre-booked heritage learning experiences before they even come: Pre-visits and information

Museums, galleries and historic sites want learners to have the best learning experiences with them. A lot of effort is rightly put into session content and resources. Learners can benefit more from these if there’s good planning. Here, I’ll be sharing my experience of helping learners and those bringing them, to prepare for their visits. Encourage pre-visitsResearch has shown that pre-visits can make a big, positive difference to the outcomes of museum-led sessions. The booking form can be a good place for customers to book or register an interest in one. Pre-visits enable customers to familiarise themselves with the route to and around the parts of the museum they’ll be returning to. They can use this to write risk assessments and to prepare for the sensory experiences of the learning visit. It helps with those potentially troublesome, time-consuming details such as how they manage children’s visits to the shop or to the drinking fountain. Assist by flagging-up any changes since they…

Help learners get the most from pre-booked heritage learning experiences before they even come: Bookings

Museums, galleries and historic sites offer fantastic resources for learning outside the classroom. They and their customers want learners to have superb learning experiences so it pays to get the basics right from the start. I’m taking a look at some of the best ways to help learners gain the most from in-house led sessions before they arrive. This time, I’m considering the booking process. It may not be ‘sexy’ but it provides the basis for any new relationship once you and the customer have made contact. Keep it simple Some sites send paper forms and ask for them to be posted back. If you can’t avoid this, I recommend that you always post to an up-to-date named contact (this applies to any method of correspondence) and provide an SAE. It should be possible for people to make enquiries by other means, but not to leave messages on the assumption that by stating their preferred session and time, both have been secured for them. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to offer an onl…

Is your museum’s digital 'shop window’ bringing in people with disabilities or are the 'shutters' down?

11 million Britons have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability.[i] 54% say they avoid going to new places when they can’t find the relevant information before visiting.[ii] In today’s digital age, this means basic access information which helps ease social isolation and depression, and prevents visiting disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, and distress, is unavailable on many venues’ web and social media sites. Even excluding people who have temporary or unregistered access needs[iii], that’s 6 million potential visitors lost to museums and galleries. Multiply that by all the friends and family who can’t or won’t go without the person concerned, and it’s a huge moral and economic deficit.
All my life, I’ve need to know in advance what sites will be like to gauge whether relatives with physical and cognitive disabilities will be able to access and enjoy them. As a heritage worker with particular experience of learning services and volunteer management, I’ve encoun…

World Autism Awareness Week (26th March - 2nd April 2018) is a good time to consider how to make your museum more autism-friendly...

30 years ago, my brother was labelled as unfriendly, difficult, and having a ‘mental handicap’. Today, he’s described as autistic with learning disabilities. Autism is certainly a word that many people recognise now but how many know what it means? How can your museum be more welcoming to people with autism and their families?

What is autism and who can have it? Autism is a lifelong condition thought to be caused by a combination of genetics, brain development and part of the natural variety among brains. i.e. ‘neurodiversity’. It affects 1 in a 100 people in the UK - women as well as men. There’s no evidence that it’s more prevalent than before or that any ethnic or socio-economic group has a greater propensity to it than others.
Autism isn’t a learning difficulty, a learning disability, or a mental health problem. Some people with autism do have mental health issues, not least because they can find life extremely stressful. About 50% of people with autism have a learning disability. S…