I signed up to do the RNIB training because it sounded interesting, but wasn’t sure how relevant it would be for my role as Collections Officer within the Life Collections. Within minutes of the training starting, I was hooked and could start to see the potential of it.
The training started off with an introduction about the project and what its aims are, highlighting what we can/ will be able to offer Blind and Partially Sighted (BPS) people in the museum sector. There was a fun element to the training, this included partnering up and having one person guide the other round the room, this highlighted how vulnerable people can feel without sight. Another fun exercise was describing an object and having your partner draw what you are describing – we did surprisingly well!
Then we got onto the tricky part – audio description! I’d never really considered what needs to be explained in an audio description, I assumed it would just be whatever is written on the label for that object. Oh how wrong I was! Learning how to include the label facts, as well as a physical description of the object with a limited word count was really interesting, and pretty hard. We had a practice on objects from across all the museums, I had a stereoscope and had no idea what it was, needless to say I struggled and had to be steered in the right direction by the trainers.
Finally, we put all our training to the test and split up into groups and headed out into the museum. We had to pick a 2D, 3D and a touchable object within the given area and write a tour that we could give to a BPS group. Describing the objects, giving facts about them, putting them into context within a case was hard, but then you also had to consider guiding the group to the objects. It was a lot to take on board, but each group did really well and we were all given pointers by the trainers as we went along to explain how we could improve our use of language, the amount of detail needed (e.g. how tall is the case) and reminding us that they will need to be told about obstacles that could be in their way.
I gained a lot from this training, thoroughly enjoyed it and have recommended that my colleagues do it when the opportunity arises. It’s started me thinking of ways that I could apply the techniques learnt to the tours I give behind the scenes in collections, and what Life Collections staff can offer our Outreach Education team to enhance their tours and sessions – possibly live insects and models.
Amoret Spooner, Collections Assistant, Entomology, Museum of Natural History