Quiet Sessions at the National Civil War Centre, Newark, Jan 2020

Sensory Backpack
Visitors to the National Civil War Centre

We first introduced “Quiet Hours” here at the National Civil War Centre in January 2019 after consulting with a local autism support group PAACT.

Their founder Gordon, very kindly met me at the centre and we took a tour, carefully making notes in each gallery and space, detailing what may cause obstacles for our guests with sensory issues.

Once that was completed, we discussed each point and talked through what we could do to change things to be less of an obstacle without losing any of the experience.

The next step was to invite families with sensory difficulties to visit our centre, out of hours, to see the changes we were able to make and give feedback over a cuppa and a biscuit.

This went extremely well and apart from a few minor alterations and suggestions, it was a roaring success and everyone went home happy. However, this was merely the start of our venture.

 In 2019 we ran Quiet Hours on a Sunday morning once a month, whilst the Centre was open but a naturally quiet time for us here. This has since developed significantly to become our new Quiet Sessions, extending their availability and hopefully, fitting better into family life so that more people can enjoy them. Feedback we have received since trialling the sessions has also led to a growth in what we can offer permanently during our regular opening hours, making our centre even more accessible.

All of our staff here from management to volunteers have received Autism training and we are lucky enough to have a few volunteers who are/were special needs teacher.

Permanent Sensory Space

On a day to day basis we offer a sensory map of the building which pinpoints any possible noisy and crowded areas and indicates the nearest toilets and the sensory room. If you would prefer to have a written version of the visitor welcome and orientation which is normally done by the volunteers then that is also available at any time for visitors to read and use as reference.

Our Centre has numerous interactives both electronic and hands on which makes exploring each gallery more fun. We also have a dress up area in our Civil War Gallery where you can try on real outfits from the era and even wear a suit of armour.

We have a permanent Sensory/Quiet space at the back of our Tudor Hall which is accessible at any time. This was developed by reaching out to our local community who were extremely generous with donations and we’re constantly developing and improving this space.

Sensory Backpack
Sensory Backpack

We also have a sensory backpack available to use during your visit which contains ear defenders, a cuddly buddy to take around with you, fiddle toys and a notebook and pencil so that you can make any notes or draw pictures on your way around. Just tear out the pages before you go so you can keep them.

Also located in the Museum foyer are Boye the dog and Blackjack the horse, who you can take around the Centre with you, as well as various trails to keep you busy and let you engage more with the exhibitions.

Every school holiday we have a craft activity set up in our Learning space which is usually sensory based. It is a nice quiet room which does not get overly busy and is always manned by a knowledgeable volunteer.

Our website has an accessibility section which details parking generally and for blue badge holders and we are currently developing a visual story so that you can use it to check us out before your visit.

Our Quiet Sessions run every second Sunday of the month from 10 till 11am and from 3pm until close which is 4pm between October and February and 5pm the rest of the year.

During these sessions we offer a touch and feel table which differs in its contents, supplied from our fantastic Learning team’s Discovery Boxes, every month.

With feedback from our visitors we are developing this all of the time and strive to continue to grow and improve so we can welcome even more visitors to experience the Centre’s offer.

by Emma Woolven, Duty Manager.

You can find out more about the National Civil War Centre, Newark by visiting their website – http://www.nationalcivilwarcentre.com/

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