We at Support 4 Sight have been working in partnership with Saffron Walden Museum to make their current exhibition accessible to blind and partially sighted visitors. The Support 4 Sight trustees and staff had the pleasure of visiting the presently running exhibition, Bone Black, a brief history of colours on Tuesday 24 January 2023.

Picture of exhibition Red and Yellow colour areas

Both staff and trustees found themselves immersed in a wonderful sensory rainbow world of smells, sounds and shapes.

Sharon Schaffer, CEO of support 4 Sight said: “It was fantastic to see the Bone Black exhibition go from concept to reality in such a beautifully executed way with accessibility at the heart”.

Once in the museum we found ourselves surrounded by displays of colourful artifacts from the museum’s collection and a sensory table in the centre ready for exploration. Each colour had its own display looking at the processes that make colour both from the natural world, as well as man-made.

Picture of Sensory Table with items to touch and smell

Masuma Ali, Community fundraiser said: “The Bone Black exhibition just goes to show how simple inexpensive adaptations, and a willingness from staff can make museum exhibitions accessible to blind and partially sighted people. It was wonderful to be able to scan a QR code and have information read out to me using my mobile phone! It allowed me to be independent and not reliant on someone else to read the display text”.

But fear not, you don’t need to be tech savvy to take advantage of the accessibility features implemented by the museum. In addition to the use of QR codes the museum made excellent use of the RNIB Penfriend and created audio labels. Visitors simply need to touch the Penfriend to the pre-recorded labels and the audio will start playing.

To hear some of the recordings, visit the QR audio guide for blue here: https://www.swmuseumlearning.com/four-blue

Picture of exhibition Blue area

Graham Hawkes, Services Co-ordinator said: “An interesting exhibition especially for the visually impaired, with the sensory elements of touch and smells, the modelling with clay was a very good idea as it was fully accessible for the visually impaired people.”

The sensory table was a delight full of smells, sounds and shapes associated to colours and resulted in fascinating conversations amongst staff and trustees on people’s relationships to colours and how they view them.

Charlotte Pratt, Curator at Saffron Walden Museum said: “It was great to welcome Support 4 Sight members to the Museum to explore the exhibition and get hands on with some clay in the creative workshop. I would like to thank everyone who came along for really getting involved and giving lots of useful feedback and insights. Many of the ideas to make the exhibition accessible were a first for our Museum and it was fantastic to see that those simple and affordable ideas really did work to make the exhibition accessible for to blind and partially sighted visitors. It’s given me lots of ideas for the next exhibition I am curating at the Museum in the summer and I would like to thank Sharon, Masuma and Support 4 Sight for or their help, support and super ideas!”

Thank you to Saffron Walden Museum for allowing us the opportunity to work closely to create an accessible exhibition.

Support 4 Sight would like to extend it’s thanks to the other collaborative groups which helped make such an innovative and interesting exhibit:

  • Saffron Walden Community Shed and Peter Morrissey for constructing the table.
  • Paul Bellany and the Young Writers’ Group for their creative contributions which you can hear in the audio guide.
  • Out of the Shadows Choir, Cambridge, for devising and recording the range of sounds, each an aural concept of a colour.

The ‘Bone Black: A Brief History of Colour’ exhibition runs alongside the museum’s excellent permanent collection until 19th March 2023.

For more information  you can contact the museum by email at museum@uttlesford.gov.uk or telephone 01799 510333.