Gosh, where do I begin?
I took part in what I believe was the first Museum Marathon in London back in 2013. I had only recently quit my ‘proper’ job and started volunteering. I didn’t really know a lot of people in museums, but in my enthusiasm to throw myself into every challenge I partnered up with another Museum of London volunteer and we became firm friends over the course of 26 museums and a whole day’s walking.
In 2013 we raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, it was a fantastic day coming across many museums I didn’t even know existed. In 2018 Mar Dixon suggested we do it all over again. When I waved my Twitter hand in the air to be included I had little idea how ‘involved’ I would get. Mar decided to raise money for my particular passion – ‘Autism in Museums’. Whilst this was fantastic, I am not a charity, so the challenge would be how best to make use of the money raised, how do I make the most impact? (and also would we raise any money?)
The aim was to raise £300, the day itself was brilliant, 30+ people turned up on the day to trek 12 miles across London visiting everywhere from the big museums like the V&A, Natural History Museum and Science Museum (3 in 5 minutes of each other, a quick win) to some lesser known museums like the Bank of England Museum, Foundling Museum and Pollock’s Toy Museum. Mar has given a better account of the day itself here, suffice to say I lost count after 3 museums and began drinking lots of coffee and taking random photos.
This blog is really all about two things, a thank you and a what next…..
First up a huge thank you goes to Mar Dixon who gave me the kick up the backside to take this to the next level. Back in 2014 I remember Mar telling me I should be talking at conferences and taking my passion about Autism in Museums to a wider audience. It has only taken 4 years (Sorry Mar!) but I have now spoken at several conferences and I am doing more now that I ever thought I could to make a difference. She made me do another Museums Showoff and has given me wise words to get maximum impact from the money raised. I am listening Mar, I will do my best, thank you.
Thanks to Mikaela, another coerced into the service of Mar, your map skills whilst also changing jobs were much needed. You were more than happy to don a sweat band to dazzle a pub full of people at Museums Showoff without complaint. It seemed like a good idea at the time….. It was fantastic to have someone to share the work and stress!
Thanks to Rachel Kuhn whose work behind the Visitor Experience Forum gave her the Front of House connections to line up treats for us on the day. Starting things off on the best possible footing with goodie bags of chocolate from the V&A and a much needed free drinks stop at the National Gallery complete with tote bag. The bags made it much easier to keep the group together as you could spot 30 Da Vinci’s crossing the busy London streets.
Rachel even brought the youngest member of the Museum Marathon crew along (Little M). She may have taken a nap mid-way through, but her vocal encouragement and stamina was impressive.
Thanks to my family for coming up and supporting part the way (even though you were bribed with gingerbread men) I know you have all had enough of museums by now but like me you are stuck with us!
Thanks to Neil for risking life and limb and taking the photos. Thanks to Matt for taking control of the map and seeing us safely through.
Thanks to all you crazy guys who came and took part on the day with your jazzy leggings, pokemon stops, permanent enthusiasm and good cheer even in the face of rain, numerous bonus museums and sore feet.
Finally thank you of course goes to everyone who has donated, to date we have raised an amazing £1,200.00. I never dreamed we would raise that much. I am so grateful for your support and I will do the very best I can to stretch the money as far as I can.
So for me the hard bit starts now, how best to spend the money. I am already in talks with a museum professional who wants to offer a gap year structured work placement for an autistic lad. We are finalising details but some of the money will go towards his travel expenses or training to help him prepare for university.
I am looking at helping museums support autistic visitors whether this is on a regular visit or special early opening, by buying sensory equipment perhaps for a chill-out space, things like ear defenders or bean bags. I will be contacting a few museums that run events to see what works well in their spaces.
I will be putting an official call out on my blog for those who are interested later this year and I plan to get a panel of young autistic people together to decide what we buy and where it should go.
Since we have raised more than I planned I am busy working on a couple more ideas to spread best practice around Autism in Museums. So keep an eye out for more from me soon.
Last year I worked on a project that offered volunteer/work experience over 8 weeks for young autistic adults at the Museum of London. It was a fantastic project that had a huge impact on staff, me as a volunteer and the young people who took part. It gave them a change to grow their social skills, face their fears and expand their horizons. Every time I visit a museum for an early opening I meet families who are visiting for the very first time.
The National Autistic did a survey in 2015 that said 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated, and only 16% of autistic adults are in full time work. The things we do now, the money we raise, the events we put on, the volunteering we offer, the staff we support, are all making a difference. Museums, cultural venues and heritage places are a unique network across the country that can make a massive impact, not only on individuals but families too. I know this because it is me, it is my family, it is my kids who benefit and thrive because of the support and actions of others.
I want that for all autism families, a place to go when they need it, a start on the ladder, a fun day out, a helping hand, a spark of something new that starts a lifelong passion.
To the 68 people who donated to our GoFundMe site I thank you. We are going to do this together and it is going to make a difference.
There is still time to donate and you can do it here – https://www.gofundme.com/museummarathon2018
If you think you can help in anyway get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org