The UP Museums are becoming BOLD and more beautiful

Posted on March 04, 2020

The University of Pretoria Museums aim to become more diverse and inclusive, as suggested by this year’s theme for International Museum Day “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”, which will be globally celebrated on 18 May 2020. The UP Museums dedicate the whole month of May to raising awareness about the global and local importance of museums. 

In previous years, the UP Museums started making their facilities, galleries, buildings and exhibitions more widely accessible to diverse people, particularly aimed at people with special needs.  The collaborative initiative of the UP Museums towards the end of last year with a visually impaired student, Rohan Crafford has recently featured in the Tukkievaria.  It was then decided in the beginning of this year, for the UP Museums to further their engagement campaign to widen access and began to collaborate closely with the Disability Unit by offering specialised, custom-made tours to students with disabilities. The response has been incredible.

The student society known as ‘Beyond Our Limiting Disabilities’ or BOLD has already embarked on three specialised tours within the different museum spaces. The interpretative guided tours focus specifically on the diverse special needs of the students such as full blindness or partial blindness, people in wheelchairs, deaf visitors and people who have speech impairments.  Such tailor-made interpretation enhances student experiences of the creative spaces surrounding museum collections. Through more detailed verbal descriptions and the re-interpretation of the collections on display and by engaging more senses such as smell or touch are examples of methods used.  Hearing-impaired persons are catered for through explanatory information panels, touch items are available for the visually impaired such as the oversized reproduction of a Mapungubwe ceramic from the 13th century and other communication technologies (ICTs), such as audio-visual materials by means of video further enable deeper student engagement. 

The enthusiasm displayed by the students in their self- and guided exploration of the museum galleries enhances the ways in which the Museum Interpretive Officer conducts tours. Simply by paying increasing attention to the inclusion of providing a physical and sensory experience - a more mindful experience that is both beautifully enjoyed, educational and engaging.  This collaborative and eye-opening initiative was immensely rewarding for both parties: the museum guide and the students, allowing all to experience the museum galleries in new ways, looking at things differently from various angles and with deeper meaning.  Thembisile Princess Sibanda, one student who attended provided feedback of her BOLD tour, stated: “Thank you so much.  You made our tour fun.”  The experience was just as enriching for Nicole Hoffmann, who was bolstered by the enthusiasm of the BOLD students.  Strategically, the UP Museums are moving forward with many such valuable changes to engage communities, particularly the student community to ensure that the museums are not just educational but fun, creative, social and exciting places to explore as part of their campus life over and above their academic programmes.

The University of Pretoria Museums are open free of charge from Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 16:00.  Custom-made tours can be booked through the Museum Interpretive Officer, Nicole Hoffmann.  Please see the details below:

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Telephone: (012) 420 2178/5181

- Author Nicole Hoffmann
Published by Nicole Hoffmann

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