Being Cornwall Museums Partnership’s First Apprentice

Having worked for Cornwall Museums Partnership for six months now, some people would say I’m fully settled in and some may argue that I’m still fairly new, and to be honest I don’t know which bracket I fall into as the job itself varies according to the needs of the charity. I know it sounds cliché, but I do learn new things (almost) every day.

Friends, family and other apprentices at college are always asking, “What is it EXACTLY you do?” and I can’t even answer that myself. A colleague described the role as “the glue that holds CMP together”, but I see myself as more of the chameleon of CMP as I like to think that I can adapt to whatever is needed of me. One day I’m processing invoices, the next I’m on the other side of Cornwall setting up remote-control army tanks at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum.

The office itself fluctuates several times a day in that one minute it’s a loud, busy office with phones ringing left, right, and centre and the next it’s like a library, with the occasional odd noise from Krowji residents. Visitors pop-in most days and it’s never the same people in on any two days which considering nine people work here is amazing.

People also ask how it is being in an office full of women, to which I always say I’d work the same way if it was full of men, it makes no difference and on first thought you’d think there wouldn’t be much we have in common/to speak about, but you’d be mistaken. I think the introduction of my World Cup sweepstake sums this up, in that one thing that may seem out of place at first glance, isn’t.

To the outside person reading this CMP must sound like a chaotic place, and it is, but it works. Everyone in the office is always busy but there is always time for a tea and coffee break, and for someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee, and has never had an office-type job, it never ceases to amaze me how much usage the kettle gets.

In conclusion, I look forward to the next six months of working with CMP and I hope I put as much value into the charity as I have gained from it.

P.S. I’m looking forward to the Christmas party!

Holding a relaxed opening at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum

“Just a few simple adaptations can give a family a visit to remember”

Chloe leading object handling at the relaxed opening (Photo courtesy of @cornwallsregimentalmuseum Instagram)

Relaxed openings have become increasingly common over the past few years. From cinemas to theatres to supermarkets, from the cultural sector to big business increasingly organisations have been thinking about how they can adjust their offer to become more inclusive to people with neuro-diversity.

Inspired by Tom Weir and Mark Barrett’s talk at our recent Brilliant Things conference, we thought that a relaxed opening at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum could be a great way to adapt our usual museum visitor experience.

We settled on a time and date, created a poster, Eventbrite page and advertised our early bird relaxed opening widely. We received lots of encouragement from autism and learning disability support organisations who shared the information through their networks and on social media. We also made a pre-visit guide so that our visitors could gain a better understanding of the space and a guide for parents/carers so they knew what adaptations would be in place. Ticket reservations, though slow at first, picked up steadily in the lead up to the event.

We thought carefully about the adaptions we would make to the museum. We turned off the hand-dryers in the toilets and replaced them with hand towels, we muffled the large bell and cleared the front desk of all but the essential information, we adjusted the lighting (where possible) and turned off the TV screens and music.

Although we made a number of practical adaptions to the visit, we didn’t want to remove the fun from the museum experience. For example, we decided we would leave the bugles and drum for visitors to try and so we warned visitors about this at the start and offered ear defenders to anyone who wanted them. This turned out to be the right decision on the day as all of the family groupings attending had a lot of fun having a go at playing them. We also offered a number of activities that families could take part in as part of their visit. These included two quizzes at easy and more challenging levels, object handling of our collection of First World War Trench Art, craft activities including make your own trench art and medal design as well as a pop-up sensory space.

The sensory space at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum

A warm welcome can really make a visit, and insights from support organisations suggested that this was particularly key for these visitors. We assembled our museum team carefully. We have a number of volunteers who have experience in education or care settings in working with people with special educational needs or disabilities. These volunteers proved invaluable on the day, from being the friendly face on the front desk to leading craft activities to chatting to families and collecting evaluation.

The feedback from visitors was unanimously positive – they loved the quizzes, object handling, dressing up and craft activities not only did the families enjoy these activities, crucially they all helped to slow the children down who may otherwise have ‘raced’ through the visit. Our pop-up sensory space was a big hit, this provided a relaxing space for everyone and helped increase the dwell time in the museum as families could retreat to the space as necessary. We also had lots of lovely comments about how friendly and welcoming the museum team were.

We focused a lot on making a great visit for people with sensory processing disorders, but we had great feedback from accompanying parents, grandparents and siblings too. The relaxed opening meant that everyone could enjoy the visit at a pace that worked best for them.

We’ve already begun planning for the next one and are now integrating this quarterly into our regular programming. And we’re not alone – Royal Cornwall Museum are holding their relaxed opening this week and other museums involved in our NPO programme are also developing new activities for these audiences too.

One of our visitors shared on leaving “Thank you. We simply wouldn’t have been able to come here if you hadn’t had done this” – when just a few simple adaptations can give a family a visit to remember the question really is why not?

Staff and volunteers celebrate a brilliant first relaxed opening

Chloe Hughes, Engagement Lead – and Verity Anthony, Visitor Experience and Collections Manager at Cornwall Regimental Museum

Verity Anthony Cornwall's Regimental Museum