There are a substantial number of people in the UK living with some form of sight loss. During the lockdown, when visitors could not go to cultural organisations, Tenby Museum made the decision to open up access to its collections via a series of podcasts, specifically for those with visual impairment.
The Aviva crowdfunded project Hear To See set out to describe a number of objects through the audio description for those visitors who may not be able to have the same experiences with collections. It aimed to open up the doors of interaction to all visitors, fostering an environment of social inclusion and contributing to wellbeing through culture and help to tackle isolation.
So far there have been 13 of these podcasts shared, ranging from descriptions of paintings, sculpture social history items such as a pair of outsize shoes, a suit of armour, a ship’s figurehead and a milestone. It is intended that these podcasts can be used not only off-site but also during the museum visit, where many of the descriptions will coincide with the opportunity to touch some of the objects. The project was designed to give a deeper sense of how the object feels and looks to give the listener a more in-depth understanding and perspective of the item.
The RNIB picked up on these podcasts and presented the first six on their RNIB Connect Radio station, helping the work to reach a wider targeted audience. We are grateful to the RNIB for their support with this.
The podcasts were written and recorded by the museum curator, Mark Lewis, who has had some experience of working with Vocal Eyes on a previous descriptive project and were recorded at home! Whilst writing the pieces he found that he was looking more closely at the items and finding things there for the first time that previously he had not noticed.
These podcasts are the first step in a series of planned projects to increase access and enjoyment of the collections for those living with visual impairment, whether the visit is physical or virtual. Several more podcasts are planned, including exploring objects from the museum’s prehistory and natural history collections, to help get the stories of the items out there for all to enjoy.