Blackpool Museum Project has recruited an access panel to advise the project on how to make the museum accessible for everyone. As part of this work the panel visited Eureka! The National Children’s Museum. Carol Neal has written an account of the trip for our blog.
On a wet, windy, dark and cold morning a group of adults and children from the Blackpool Museum Project’s Access Group waited on Central Car Park for the coach to take us to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax. The museum has a very good reputation for being accessible so we were all looking forward to the day. Not even the weather could not dampen our enthusiasm!
After an uneventful journey we arrived at Eureka! which from the outside looks like a giant glass box. As we were a little early the visit started in the Cafe where members of the group purchased refreshments whilst we waited for our guide – called an enabler.
Rachel had told me earlier that the day was being filmed and she would introduce me to Hilary (the film maker) who would explain my task for the morning. Never having been filmed before I was nervous about what I expected to be a short interview to camera. When I met Hilary my task was to film the Museum and commentate on what I was seeing as I explored. A camera was fitted to the side of my wheelchair and off I went on my journey.
A place for children of all ages
The museum is amazing and aimed at children of all ages – I felt that I wanted to be 8 years old again, exploring and giggling with all the children. There were interactive displays where you could measure the length of your step, your reach and lots more, as well as the children I think most of the adults in the party had a go all trying to step further than anyone else. We moved onto the health section where you could stand inside a giant mouth which had the various teeth labelled.
Many of us were fascinated with the healthy eating section where you could work out which foods were good for you and those that were really unhealthy. Moving further round the exhibits there was a giant nose that children could stand inside and have a puff of air blown onto them with the sound of a sneeze. I saw two little boys taking turns and both collapsing with the giggles every time they went inside the nose. Downstairs there was a working model of an Archimedes Screw with a model of Archimedes himself being dropped into a bath of water and lots of other machines.
Enabling Access for All
Our enabler took us to their ‘chill room’ where a child who needs some time out can go for a break. They have a sensory light tube, lots of squishy floor cushions and a projector that beams tranquil pictures onto the wall.
The staff at the Museum are trained to work with children with special needs to enable them to experience and access the exhibits, hence the term enablers. During the time we spent at Eureka all the staff were so positive ensuring that everyone got the most out of their day.
Looking at the Museum from an access point of view as a wheelchair user I was amazed at the space, I didn’t have to think about the space between exhibits because there was so much room to move around. A really big lift takes you up to the first floor with plenty of room on one trip for myself in my chair and two families both with prams.
They have a Changing Places accessible toilet as well as a baby change facility to ensure that the needs of all the family are addressed.
Over lunch you could feel the positive buzz from our entire group and everyone was talking about the visit so far. The children who were in the group were really enjoying their day and as the Museum is aimed at children it has certainly achieved its objective.
A Proactive Museum
The afternoon was spent listening to talks from members of the Management Team who all emphasised that you could never sit back, running a museum you had to be proactive, looking for new experiences for visitors, attracting funding and ensuring you had the best staff and volunteers.
When they advertise they can have 50 people applying to be a enabler, they have such a fantastic reputation in the area.When we returned to the coach for our journey home everyone agreed it had been an amazing day and we had all learnt so much as well as having a fantastic time.
Thanks to the Museum Project for such a great day which I am sure we will be talking about for the foreseeable future.