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SPRI Museum & Archives - Access Policy and Plan

SPRI Museum & Archives - Access Policy and Plan


1. Introduction

1.1 Everyone has the right of access to our cultural heritage. Access is not just about meeting the needs of physically disabled people, as a disability can take many forms and often cannot be seen. It is not just about people who use wheelchairs but also people who may have:

  • Restricted mobility, for example, they can walk but not very far;
  • Sight or hearing difficulties;
  • Memory or learning difficulties;
  • Limited strength or agility; and
  • Speech and communication difficulties.

1.2 In any given situation, particularly for institutions or resources that have not enjoyed significant development or change for many years, some audiences are likely to experience multiple barriers that prohibit access. These barriers act to deter not just those suffering from disabilities but also those who may, for example, work long hours (Organisational Barrier), earn a low wage (Financial Barrier) or come from a non-White, British background (Cultural Barrier), all of whom would face a type of barrier to visitation.

1.3 These barriers are often thought of in terms of the following categories:

  • Organisational: e.g. an organisation may have a poor or confused public image and one that does not appear to be representative of all. Opening times may not reflect local needs, and there may be limited scope for the public to become actively involved in the organisation.
  • Physical and Sensory: e.g. affecting people with physical disabilities, older people and those with responsibility for children in push-chairs.
  • Intellectual: e.g. through inadequate displays and interpretation, directly contributing to a limited understanding, or through lack of provision for other kinds of learning and education activities.
  • Cultural: e.g. with collections, exhibitions and events failing to engage people from different cultural and social backgrounds.
  • Financial: e.g. through high admission charges, the cost of transport, and the cost of catering, merchandising, accommodation and other services and facilities.

1.4 These are all barriers that can limit people's opportunities and therefore limit their access to heritage. It is part of the SPRI Museum's commitment to access to 'break down' these barriers by:

  • Encouraging new groups of people to engage with heritage;
  • Increasing the number of people involved with the Museum;
  • Improving the visitor experience on site;
  • Offering programmes and activities to meet people's needs and interests; and
  • Helping visitors to get the most out of their experience.

1.5 This Access Policy has been informed by the guidance of the resulting data from the Audience Development Plan, Business Plan and Conservation and Preservation Policy.

1.6 The policy will show our commitment to these principles of improving access throughout the Museum. It will show how the aim of improving access relates to our overall vision and will outline an approach to removing the barriers identified by the Access Audit and Audience Development Plan.

2. The SPRI Museum's Vision, Aims and Objectives

2.1 The Vision of the Museum is to:

'Promote understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage resulting from the exploration and scientific study of the Polar Regions by organisations and individuals of all nations, but particularly by those of Great Britain'

This is achieved by collecting, documenting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting material evidence resulting from past human activity in the Arctic and Antarctic, and also by promoting interest in, and understanding of, the heritage by making the Institute's collections and associated information available to the public.

2.2 The six Strategic Aims of the SPRI Museum are as follows:

  • To improve public understanding and appreciation of the Polar Regions;
  • To display and care for collections associated with the historical exploration and the continuing scientific investigation of the Polar Regions;
  • To ensure that learning and access provision are core elements of all aspects of the Museum's work;
  • To make collections accessible to a non-specialist audience by improving the standards of display and interpretation;
  • To safeguard the collections for future generations by improving environmental controls, storage facilities and security; and
  • To publish (in conventional form or on the internet) well-researched but accessible account of the collections.

2.3 The nine stated Objectives identified to meet these Aims are as follows:

  • Complete re-display of the Museum, to improve intellectual access and its value as an educational platform;
  • Re-balancing of the Museum's content (on display) and interpretation to reflect the movement away, in the twentieth century, from exploration to scientific study;
  • Improve access to the Museum by physical reorganisation of the reception area and increasing its hours of operation;
  • Total re-fit of the Museum's stores, enabling much improved access to the reserve collections;
  • Develop the educational and learning capacity of the Museum to make a significant contribution to formal and informal learning outside of the university (as well as within);
  • Meet External Standards of Collections Care (as laid out by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council);
  • Achieve Designation status for some or all of the core collections;
  • Extend partnership arrangements and joint working within and beyond Higher Education; and
  • Develop the Museum's online presence and services.

An Action Plan for the realisation of these objectives can be found in the Museum's Forward Plan 2006-2011.

3. Our Commitment to Access

3.1 The SPRI Museum understands that there are many barriers to access at all levels of the Museum service. However, we believe that all people have a fundamental right to enjoy the service we provide.

3.2 We define access as something which is facilitated when physical, cultural, social, financial, intellectual, psychological and emotional barriers are removed or reduced.

3.3 We acknowledge that our responses will entail enthusiasm and a commitment of resources, and will be founded on a genuine partnership with our stakeholders.

3.4 Our commitment is long term and our ultimate aim is to achieve optimum levels of access to the Museum's collections and independence of use of the Museum's public facilities for the widest spectrum of people.

Admission without charge to the public is an important expression of the Museum's commitment to facilitate access to the Museum. This principle will continue to be upheld by both the Museum and the University as a fundamental value.

Access Plan 2006-2009

1. Aim: To identify barriers to participation and work towards reducing their impact to users.

In support of this aim, the Museum will:

1.1 Implement, as appropriate, access audits for any major physical changes to the site and services in conjunction with the University's Disability Resource Centre.

1.2 Provide training for Museum staff in access issues on an annual basis, and to use training as the principal means of keeping staff awareness up to date. Provide access courses for all new members of staff within the Museum's induction programme.

1.3 Where possible, provide auxiliary aids for disabled visitors to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (1999).

1.4 Produce an interpretation policy which will be approved by the Library, Archive and Museum Committee by January 2007.

2. Aim: To communicate to users that their responses and viewpoints are valued, welcomed and respected and may influence future direction.

In support of this aim, the Museum will:

2.1 Continue to actively encourage users, through a variety of media, to make comments about the Museum at strategic locations in the museum galleries and on the Museum's website.

2.2 Continue to engage with the visitor and act on feedback.

2.3 Make the Museum's Customer Care Policy accessible to all stakeholders by Summer 2007.

3. Aim: To ensure that involvement of a selection of stakeholder groups is integral to all developments.

In support of this aim, the Museum will:

3.1 Continue to recruit representatives from key stakeholder groups and develop their involvement in discussions on access. We take stakeholder groups to include: funding bodies, government bodies, all user groups, staff, colleagues and legislative bodies.

3.2 Continue to develop links and work with local community groups.

3.3 Set up user consultation for the galleries refurbishment project by November 2006.

3.4 Keep stakeholders informed of all developments through newsletters, the Museum website and other appropriate media on a regular basis.

3.5 Ensure that the University's Equal Opportunities Code of Practice is fully implemented.

4. Aim: To look for ways to extend and develop relationships with new user groups.

In support of this aim, the Museum will:

4.1 Evaluate audience development priorities each year and incorporate these into the Museum's Strategic Plan.

4.2 Secure the post of the outreach/schools liaison officer into the longer term and integrate his/her work into all areas of access and audience development, in accordance with the priorities set.

5. Core activities upon which the Museum's Mission Statement and Three year action plan will depend:

  • The ethical acquisition, organisation and preservation of objects, specimens and associated information that form the collections held in trust by the University in the Museum.
  • Undertaking, enabling and publishing high quality research relevant to the subject areas and making the knowledge and expertise of the staff accessible in an appropriate form to its users.
  • Interpreting, inspiring and entertaining its users through a variety of appropriate media including displays, education programmes, ICT and other services.
  • The continuing evaluation, promotion and development of its services in partnership with the community that it serves.
  • The effective management, deployment and development of resources, including staff, collections, buildings and finance and the generation of income from all appropriate sources of support and to sustain and develop the activities of the Museum.