As a candidate in the Newark by-election 2014, I was invited to
visit on Wednesday 21 May, the site of the new museum and National
Civil War Centre in
Newark on Trent UK, my local town.
I met with Bryony Robins, the Project Manager for the £5.4 million
restoration of the old museum, at the Magnus School Building on
Applegate, Newark. The project is jointly co-ordinated by the Friends
of Newark Museums and Newark and Sherwood District Council.
A large part of the cost has been funded by the Lottery Heritage
Fund, but other companies and organisations have also contributed. UPS,
the delivery firm, donated £16,500 specifically for technology to make
the collections accessible for learning disabled and visually impaired
Newark was a key strategic town during the English Civil War,
1642-1646, and one of the aims of the new centre is to show how
conflict and siege affected the ordinary people of the town, and how
they survived such challenging times.
The centre will feature exhibitions on other civil conflicts around
the world and in our own time, and also show how the changes brought
about by the English Civil war contributed to creating the parliament
and society we have today.
Accessibility has been built in to the project design from the
start, and Bryony told me that the committee have liaised closely with
a range of groups, for example the RNIB, and local special needs
schools, to ensure that the museum’s treasures can be enjoyed by those
with visual impairments, or with learning difficulties, as well as
those with physical disabilities or impairments.
Plans include audio tours tailored to the needs of blind and
partially sighted visitors; a hearing loop system; Makaton pamphlets
and guides to the exhibits; tactile representations of some of the
objects on display; tactile maps of the exhibitions; and touch-tours
when certain objects can be handled.
I suggested to Bryony that the new 3-D printer technology might be
an affordable way to recreate some of the more fragile exhibits. So
many autistic children respond far more to touch than they do to visual
stimuli, and it would also offer a fuller experience for visually
impaired visitors. Bryony said it hadn’t been suggested so far, but
that she would certainly pass the idea on to the committee.
Other accessibility features will be wheelchair accessible lifts and
exhibition areas, and provision has also been made for any disabled
staff who might be employed at the museum.
My other questions were about opening hours, for example opening
early or late specifically for autistic or other neuro-diverse children
who find crowded places and a lot of noise hard to handle. Again,
Bryony said she would pass my suggestions on to the team responsible
for making those decisions.
Last updated on 8 June 2014
For more information about the centre and pictures of the proposed layout of the rooms. You may find the following links useful.
National Civil War Museum site in Newark website.
National Civil War Centre, web page on Newark and
Sherwood District Council website.
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