What’s your social responsibility?

CETAID: A European community conference
24 – 27th February
Hosted by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), Newcastle

This conference largely focussed on how, why, and what challenges we face as cultural organisations when engaging with our community.

Organisations were represented from Hungary (Muzeumok es Latogatok Alapitvany), United Kingdom (Historic Royal Palaces, and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums), and Italy (Istituto Luigi Sturzo). All faced with different social and political circumstances as well as varied museology practices.

Despite our  differences, all countries agreed that the number one reason for engaging with communities is; we as an organisation have a social responsibility – our heritage belongs to the people!

It was through this lens of ‘social responsibility’ that we engaged with the rest of the conference. Presentations were given on TWAM’s community projects, discussions were had around evidencing impact, and the fun bit – site visits; Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda, which had a vast and well preserved collection of Roman Shoes. Did you know, this is due to the anoxic conditions (no oxygen) at the depths at which they were found?

Our final visit was the Gateshead Clubhouse: Moving forward service. This inspiring service is run as a partnership between the members (mental health users) and staff from Mental Health Concern. Their focus was enabling recovery by building skills through involvement in a range of activities; including working with museums.

What is your social responsibility?

This was a great knowledge sharing conference, laced with full English breakfasts, pubs and fish & chips shops!

Sensory Room for Under 5′s

As part of Kensington Palace Christmas, the Tiny Explorer programme has been piloting a Sensory Room designed specifically for children aged 5 years and under. The aim of the space is for families with young children to feel free to be themselves within the historic environment, foster quality family interaction and play time, and enable them to engage with the history through sensory learning and play.

The room is decorated to evoke Christmas during William and Mary’s reign, with a soft sent of pine filling the room and Baroque style carols playing in the background. There are a variety of activities focusing on different types of learning engagement and promoting family interaction, including treasure baskets for very young children to explore familiar objects, musical instruments to play, you can dress up as the Lord of Misrule, cuddle under the Kissing Bough, imagine ice skating on a frozen lake in Holland, spot the animals in Dutch still life paintings, make animal noises inspired by delft tiles, build a palace out of presents, crawl through a present box, or sniff the different smells of Christmas like Frankincense, frost, wood smoke and spices.

The room is trialling what is needed for successful self-directed engagement with under 5′s, a basic mission (activity trail) in the form of an activity card booklet, and ways of introducing under 5′s to a historical period, and to help us to generally get to know the audience better. We have been quite quiet during the week, but things have picked up over the weekend, with visitor responses being extremely positive and evidence of the aims of the room being met in visitor comments: ‘What a great space! It was great having a place for my toddler to explore and roam free. We will be back!’

If you would like to see the space it will be in the Duchess of Kent room, just off the Kings Gallery, until 4th January, and is open to the public every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

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