How can we make heritage inclusive for everyone?

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When I think back on the Inclusive Heritage Conference we hosted on 30 October, one of the things that really struck me, hearing from and talking to people who attended, was the idea that if we remove barriers, things are better for everyone. Whoever we think we're benefiting, many, many more people will actually benefit; whatever we do will have more impact than we expect.

The idea for the conference first came about from a workshop we ran 18 months ago when we invited some people to talk to us about what more we could do: they really challenged us to be more ambitious, more assertive and to make sure that everything we did supported an inclusive engagement with heritage.

So when we were organising the latest event we were clear that it needed to encourage ambition, and bravery, and to talk about big projects. We have funded many, many projects at the smaller level, small interventions, but now we really want to support projects on a bigger scale.

We also wanted the day to be about action. And so, picking up on points talked about during the panels and workshops, and challenges presented to us, I made these pledges on behalf of HLF:

  • We will challenge those coming to us with big projects to be clear that they know where there are changing places and will either build them into their own projects or to be able to direct the people who need them to those places which are nearby.
  • We will talk to the architecture profession formally about how we can incentivise students to have the best possible ideas about accessible design, whether that's through an award or something that's HLF-sponsored.
  • When we work with young people we will always make sure that disabled young people are represented in those groups.
  • We will make it clearer that people can apply for funding to pay interns. Internships are wonderful, but they should not be seen as unpaid labour. If they’re not paid, then only certain sorts of people can take up those opportunities, and that's not inclusive.
  • We will celebrate success and challenge complacency.
  • And we will continue to lead and network and share.

It's those last two points that I'd like to focus on here – please use this space to share examples of both the large and the small changes you have introduced, or have seen elsewhere, that have made a real difference. And continue to challenge us on ways we can better support inclusive engagement with heritage.

Finally, I would urge you to have the confidence to say, if necessary: I don't know all the answers, I don't know what it's like to be you, please tell me and let me see what I can do to make sure I'm not putting up barriers to your engagement.

View Carole Souter's profile Carole Souter Dec 7 2015 - 10:26am
  1. Autism: I just wanted to share the work I've been doing collecting examples of a fairly new area re inclusion and access - that of positive support for people on the autistic spectrum. So far it's largely examples from museums though there's a little bit about other heritage and archaeology sites too.

    The aim is to offer very practical (often simple and low cost) advice and insight about what heritage organisations can do to improve their approach.

    It also includes comments from visitors and non-visitors on the autistic spectrum about what works and doesn't work for them.

    It's early days for the blog and I will continue to update it. This is a conversation I want to keep having until it's not needed any more so I'd welcome feedback, conversations, a chance to share it further at events, conferences, workshops etc.

    I would also welcome any organisations who want to submit their own case study to the blog, which they can do here -

    So I think my own action will be to continue to run this until this area of inclusion is so embedded we are instinctive about it in the same way we are about schools, families and community engagement. And to spend as much of 2016 as possible putting this on the agenda of heritage organisations who don't have it on their radar yet or are interested but don't know where to start.


    • Screen grab of the Museums and Autism blog showing a collection of brightly colours weaving bobbins and thumbnails of blog posts
  2. View Sally Fort's profile Sally Fort
    Offline | Last seen: 7 months 3 days ago
  3. To be really inclusive costs time, money and skill. A line on the budget should read How Are You Making Heritage more accessible?


  4. View Community User's profile Community User
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
  5. Have you all seen what the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre have done.  Very recent - only launched last week but covered on local and national BBC.  A different approach to making locations and information accessible for sign language users. 




    • Signly in use at Roald Dahl by Deaf parent and child
  6. View Philip Boyle's profile Philip Boyle
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
  7. in reply to

    It's funny enough that I remember seeingthis on the BBC - I think this is a great initiative but I can't find anything to say it's been taken forward? Graham 

  8. View Graham Ridley's profile Graham Ridley
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
  9. in reply to

    Hi Graham,

    The Museum's app is available and might be of interest:



  10. View Jo Reilly's profile Jo Reilly
    Offline | Last seen: 1 month 5 days ago
  11. in reply to

    Hi Graham 

    I can confirm the Signly app remains up and in use at the Roald Dahl Museum, and we have had nearly 600 downloads to date. However, we don't have more user information than that, except that there has generally been a positive reaction from any Signly user who has felt moved to comment. Given that one of the goals for Signly is to provide an understated, self-led equivalent experience for BSL users, we should be cautious in asking people about it ad hoc, as that somewhat goes against what we are trying to achieve… but this does leave us in a bit of a Catch-22! At some point in the future we will assess it more carefully, but for now we're very happy with what response we have had. 

    The Museum has run a couple of accessibility-focused days, with BSL interpreted talks added to our programme. We don't claim to be getting everything right in terms of access, but I believe Signly represents a reasonable and appropriate effort. 

    To talk to the Signly team about options for your own venue, visit


  12. View Steve Gardam's profile Steve Gardam
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
  13. in reply to

    I'm delighted to update this comment with some news of awards recognition for Signly - winner of the Jodi Mattes Award for accessible technology in museums, 2017

  14. View Steve Gardam's profile Steve Gardam
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
  15. in reply to

    I saw that Steve - great stuff. A fitting point to pay tribute to the volunteers who work so hard to run and judge the Jodi Mattes Award and keep the sector focused on producing the most accessible and high quality outputs possible. J

  16. View Jo Reilly's profile Jo Reilly
    Offline | Last seen: 1 month 5 days ago
  17. There's some interesting resources and research findings on the 'inclusive heritage' pages of the Historic England website:

  18. View Sara Crofts's profile Sara Crofts
    Offline | Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
  19. Many thanks to HLF for inviting me to the Inclusion Conference in October.  I thought people might like to know a little more about the organisation I work for  - the John Muir Trust.  Our engagement initiative, called the John Muir Award, encourages people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places.  It's for people of all backgrounds - groups, families and individuals.  It's non-competitive, inclusive and accessible. 

    The John Muir Award is directly relevant to the conference as we aim to work across a broad inclusion spectrum including those with financial hardship, the unemployed, people recovering from substance or alcohol abuse, children with poor educational attainment, and those with disabilities.  In terms of sharing examples of our work -  has an introductory film and lots of  case studies. A showcase of our inclusion work can also be found in one document here -  And some great examples of the way the John Muir Award has had an impact on people's lives can be found on pages 6 and 7 of our latest newsletter:

    For more information or to give the John Muir Award a try, please drop me a line at


  20. View Community User's profile Community User
    Offline | Last seen: 10 months 1 week ago


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