The British Library is a large, busy space for people to visit, work and generally just chill out. It is a large building with many things inside of it, ranging from over 13 million books to many different displays and exhibitions. Sometimes this busy space can be hard for people with autism or with other specific sensory needs to visit. This is why the British Library have worked hard to make their space more accessible with various events such as quiet openings.
I was lucky to be able to speak to Emma Tutton who is the Access and Outreach Programme Manager at the British Library, Emma started her Job 4 years ago and has worked extremely hard to make the British Library more accessible.
One way that this is done is with the British Library’s relaxed early openings. These are events that are held once a quarter (once every 3 months) and they run from 9am to 11am on a Sunday morning. The library doesn’t open to the public on a Sunday until 11am every day so it is a really good way of allowing families with autistic children to come into the empty building and look at everything the British Library has to offer. As well as this the staff are all autism awareness trained which allows the staff to understand their audience and it generally creates a nice day out.
During the quiet openings there are family workshops available which are accessible to families and children involving craft activities and sometimes story telling. The next relaxed early opening is on the 21st August, which is a Sunday and the event will be linked to the new Gold exhibition. Anyone that signs up will be sent out a visual
story which shows the family and the children exactly what to expect on the day. A sensory room is also created for the day with lower lighting and equipment such as: fidget toys, soft toys and bean bags. This is created just in case a child feels overwhelmed. The event is also completely free to attend.
As well as this there is a new offer for adults called ‘Relaxed Hours’ for autistic adults and anyone who would benefit from a quieter visit. This will take place during public opening hours usually 11-1pm, so the building may be a bit busier but the exhibition will have reduced numbers, sounds are switched off and there is a visual story.
The next adult event will take place on the 15th January 2023 and it will be linked to the new ‘Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth’ exhibition that is coming soon. There will also be a family event (relaxed early opening) linked to this new exhibition and will take place on Sunday 6th November 2022.
by Joe E on work experience with Autism in Museums
To find out more about the British Library please visit their website – https://www.bl.uk/
You can find out more about the Gold exhibition here – https://www.bl.uk/events/gold
You can find out more about the up coming Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth exhibition here which is due to open on 21st October 2022 – https://www.bl.uk/events/alexander-the-great-the-making-of-a-myth