South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Call for papers for the Sensing Culture symposium in Bath

Founding a Community of Practice for Sensing Culture Through Inclusive Capital
Monday 26th – Tuesday 27th March 2018
University of Bath, Somerset, UK

Background to the Symposium

Sensing Culture is a Heritage Lottery Fund funded project that enables blind and partially sighted people to increase their independence through visiting heritage sites and museums. Sensing Culture is led by CultureLink South East, which is a partnership led by the Royal National Institute of the Blind with the support of a number of prestigious heritage organisations, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will conclude in April 2018.

Sensing Culture aims to increase independence by training staff and volunteers at partner heritage sites, so these stakeholders understand the impact of sight loss. This training focuses on ways of supporting visitors and positive learning experiences.

Amongst the methods of supporting visitors who are blind and visually impaired, technology, audio description and tactile panels are used to make sites more interactive.

The five external partners for Sensing Culture are:

  • Oxford University Museums
  • The Canterbury Cluster (Canterbury Museums and Galleries, Canterbury Library and Canterbury Cathedral)
  • Lewes Castle in Sussex, part of the Sussex Archaeological Society
  • The Conan Doyle Collection in Portsmouth, part of Portsmouth Council and Libraries
  • The Royal Pavilion and Museums across Brighton and Hove

The Theme

The theme of the symposium is founding a community of practice to engage professionals, volunteers and visitors who are blind and partially sighted to develop more inclusive heritage sites. The symposium will include the launch of a website based at the University of Bath, UK, which will host the community of practice.

Through discussion, presentations of good-practice, and critical engagement with barriers to inclusion, the community of practice will provide a legacy for Sensing Culture beyond 2018. We would therefore particularly like to engage with people who can contribute to this community of practice.

The symposium will work to develop inclusive capital in cultural heritage sites. Inclusive capital can be described as a sense of inclusion in cultural heritage sites, which is gained in four stages:

  • The first stage in this cycle is connecting and bonding with a network of people
  • The second stage is learning through networks
  • The third stage is collecting information that leads to access or knowledge through learning
  • The fourth stage is physical and virtual access to spaces and places where we can learn and gather new information, such as visiting or attending cultural institutions

Call for Abstracts

Your abstract should be brief and a maximum of 100 words – preferably fewer - and should include the theme of developing inclusion, that can form inclusive capital. Examples of presentations could be:

  • a project you have designed or run in a heritage site
  • findings from an evaluation of a project
  • experiences of visiting exhibits as a blind or visually impaired person
  • initial or substantial findings from research

We are particularly interested in receiving brief abstracts from people who are:

  • people who are blind or partially sighted with experience of museums
  • museum managers, administrators, professionals and volunteers
  • academics and students studying museum access
  • teachers (either in a museum or who engages with museums as part of your teaching)

The presentations will be 15-20 minutes, and incorporate 10-15 minute discussions. We particularly welcome on-going projects that can be enhanced through a discussion at the symposium.

The abstracts will be published on paper and on the new community of practice website. If the presenter wishes, we will also publish their presentation or a paper outlining their presentation on the website. We are also preparing a proposal for a special issue of a journal, and papers can also be considered for this special issue, if the author(s) so wish.

Abstracts should be emailed to and submitted by February 14th 2018.