Starting ARCHES sessions at V&A and the Wallace Collection
On Friday the 6th of January 35 participants and their supporters gathered for the first ARCHES session at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The group consisted of a variety of individuals and organisations that had been recruited over the course of 2 months. By contacting national organisations such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind, Mencap, the Royal Association for Deaf People as well as local organisations such as Deaf London, Inclusion London and Tower Project and using social media as well as web forums, ARCHES successfully recruited a variety of individuals with different strengths and interests in the museums and technologies. The process of recruitment required not only direct contacting by email and phone but also local visits to the organisations. With the local visits we were able to answer any questions and go together through the information material. Prior to the start of recruitment we created accessible videos that included Speech-To-Text (STT) functions and British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation. During the process of the development of the first sessions, we recruited four pioneers who represented their community as a voice from the start. The pioneers were young volunteers eager to have an insight into the development of the sessions.
During the first session we asked participants to choose their favourite objects within the European Galleries. With no prior instructions participants pinpointed the strengths and weaknesses of the access offers in the museum. The main goal of the first session was to go through the information and consent material with the participants and answer any questions they had. The second session served to introduce the participants to the Wallace Collection but more importantly to start exploring the role of the participants as researchers. The participants were asked to trial two research methods; focus group and interview. Using technologies like audio recordings and videos we asked participants to record themselves while discussing their expectations from Arches, what they want to achieve from the project and what their past experiences with museums was. This exercise was not only important to introduce a research method but also to have a record that can be compared down the line of the project and see the changes to their relationship towards the project and museums. The third and fourth session are important as participants will begin to explore collaborative working, choosing what to explore and how to explore the museums and their access issues. We will also show participants how to create a RixWiki where they can record their experiences through audio, text and photos. This is a vital part, as we want participants from the beginning to record their journey.