The ‘relaxed openings’ initiative for people with autism and their families at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park has just been boosted by a Museums and Heritage Prize.
The prize money will be used to further develop the Museum as an autism-friendly venue, especially through the creation of a pop-up chill-out zone especially designed for those with extreme Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Launched in February this year, the relaxed openings proved so popular that Head of Learning at TNMOC decided to run them regularly.
Our Head of Learning explained: “We realised that the Museum offers people with ASD a fascinating visitor experience, but that the whirring noise and flashing lights of our vintage working computers could be disturbing and akin to sensory-overload. So, we launched our relaxed openings at the start of the day before the museum is fully open to the public -- and the feedback has been terrific.”
Visitors during the relaxed opening sessions know that the Museum will be less busy and that staff will be particularly alert to their needs. Sensory maps are available in advance, so that visitors know exactly what unusual sounds and sights to expect in particular parts of the Museum.
One visitor gave an insight into ASD: “Our boys both loved it. Ordinarily, after a few hours one son is on edge, on the verge of overload. They say living with autism is like living life in a disco. Museum staff were patient, understanding, and tremendously knowledgeable, explaining things in an accessible way.”
Another showed the challenges faced by some families: “It makes a huge difference to families like mine to be able to get out.”
At no extra charge, relaxed opening visitors can explore the museum, take part in drop-in activities, enjoy Augmented Reality and family trails, learn coding and enjoy the chill-out zone.
To keep numbers at an appropriate level, relaxed opening visitors are asked to register in advance. Contact email@example.com. The next relaxed openings will be on 28 July and 25 August 2017 from 10.30am to noon.
About The National Museum of Computing
The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.
The Museum runs a highly successful Learning Programme for schools and colleges and promotes introductions to computer coding amongst young people to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
Sponsors of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Science and Innovation Centre, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision, Fujitsu, InsightSoftware.com, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.
Outside the long school holidays, the whole Museum is open to the public from 12 noon - 5pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during long school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and private Guided Tours are available and bookable online – see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.
For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also available from the iPhone App Store.
Stephen Fleming, Palam Communications