About the Equal Culture project
You are 10 years old and are going on a school trip to Lödöse museum with the rest of your class and a parallel class. There are 50 pupils in all on the bus, with backpacks full of sandwiches and fruit. Already in the bus you feel your stomach tighten. Where are we going to? Everything feels uncertain. A bit scary… You are 10 and you have ADHD and AST, a variant of autism which means that you need to be well prepared with clear instructions in steps and in pictures. Sometimes, like on class excursions, it’s just not possible. Are there any museums that publish photographs of their reception areas? Or their bathrooms?
It feels like things are boiling over in your head. Once you arrive at the museum, you and your class are met by a woman dressed in medieval clothes. At least that’s what she says that when one of your classmates asks her. Now you’re being asked to take off your jackets and go into the exhibition. The fluorescent lights are buzzing and have a swishing sound. Somewhere there is the sound of a toilet flushing. All the noises and swishing are almost like a swarm of insects in your head. The woman in medieval clothes starts to talk. The feeling in your head is moving into your arms. You stand at the back and start to fiddle with something that is sticking out of the wall. The teacher guides you back toward the other children. Listen now! The feeling in your arms is spreading to your legs. They start walking by themselves. There’s a room over there! You walk off to check it out. When this has happened a few times, patience runs out. You have to sit with one of the teachers on a bench outside. Going to the museum is no fun at all!
If you had been prepared with some photos of the museum with all its rooms and the people who work there, it wouldn’t have felt quite so difficult. A map of the building with some landmarks that are easy to recognize. A diagram of the place being visited creates a structure and an overview, which gives a feeling of security. There will always be a feeling of tension in your body, but if we can create an overview is it easier to control. A room with sensory aids gives the tension a chance to calm down.
Tactile objects, symbols and simple films make it easier to take on board the information.
I want to give you more
You’re 16 but you can’t talk. Not with words, anyhow. You’re here on a visit with your classmates, who all have different functional problems. You’ve gone through photos of what the museum looks like. I’m dressed in my working clothes: a medieval shirt and dress, hat and veil. We look at the model of Lödöse in medieval times in the exhibition.
Your classmates come up with questions and comments. Can you hear me? I don’t know, but I hold up the objects I’m showing so that you can see them. Afterwards, your classmates write with a goose quill. Your hands are crooked and can’t hold the pen. Your assistant rolls your chair to the table and writes your name with the goose quill. Can you see? I don’t know. But your name! Your name is ancient and royal. I tell you and the group that many Viking chiefs and medieval kings had your name. Then you hear me! Suddenly your face lights up and you’re waving your hands. We make eye contact and we’re talking the same language, though without words. An ancient name and a story allowed us to get past the lack of words. And I want to give you more! I want you to feel that you’ve tried a medieval craft too. And of course there are ways. Technology to develop. It’s my goal.
I want to make space for you
You are 15 and live a few steps away from the museum. You used to go there with your assistant several times a week to read books in the library, colour pictures of shields and look at the sword in the exhibition. You loved to be here, but no longer. The sounds of people buying coffee, closing doors and talking are difficult to take. You have super hearing and can’t filter out all the background noise. When someone drags a chair on the floor it feels like the chair is scraping right across your skin. A school class came on your last visit. You panicked with all the noise and the sudden presence of other people. The unpredictability of other people’s movements. Not knowing what they will do scares the wits out of you. You run out and away.
I want to see you here again. At the museum, quiet and calm, browsing through books just like in the past. The normal surroundings in the museum and the library are difficult. I understand that. I want to make a place for you and your friends here to enjoy culture with us.
Young people with neuropsychiatric disabilities stay at home
There are children and young people with neuropsychiatric disabilities everywhere. Their problems are not always visible from the outside. Hectic behaviour, a loud, forced voice, flailing hands, breaking the social rules – all of these things can be the result of an inability to act like most other people do. Many families with these children stay at home at the weekend and during the holidays. They don’t want to face other people’s prejudices. For some, it may be almost pointless to go to a museum because they process information in a different way than others. For schools it is an extra challenge to take pupils with special needs on museum trips.
The project Equal Culture is a collaboration between Lödöse Museum/Västarvet, Lilla Edets municipality and the Attention association. The information and the physical design of our society are adapted to people who function ”normally”. This project will create a place and an educational approach that is easily accessible for children and young people with neuropsychiatric and intellectual disabilities.
We will create a sensory room with adapted information in the form of texts, images, tactile surfaces and films. The room will be designed not to overload the senses of vision, hearing, smell and so on. It will be a safe place to start a visit to the museum or library, where young people can orient themselves with the help of a map, get an overview with the help of images and ”feel their way” into the surroundings. They can also go back there to retreat from the museum/library if those places feel too difficult. For those who can’t manage to be in the library or the museum at all without feeling bad, the sensory room will provide a good cultural experience.
We want to include everyone!
In the project Equal Culture we work with expert groups consisting of teachers from special schools and special teaching groups, parents and children with neuropsychiatric disabilities. The idea for the project came up thanks to teachers and pupils at a school/home in Lödöse for young people with different types of intellectual and developmental disorders and autism. They visit us several times a week, but some of the young people can’t join in because the environment presents too many barriers. We want to change that. We want everyone to be able to share our cultural programme. We want to offer culture for everyone!
Marie Jonasson Schmidt,
educator at Lödöse museum