Oxford University Museums are some of the most visited and loved in the country. However, while we attract several million visitors a year, there are many people within the local community who can't or don't visit the museums, facing barriers, real or perceived, to engaging with this free cultural offer on their doorstep. While Oxford is generally considered an affluent area, it has pockets of extreme deprivation. There are 83 areas within Oxford that are measured using the English Indices of Deprivation. While 17 of these areas are within the 20% least deprived in England, 10 are areas among the 20% most deprived, and generally have low levels of engagement with culture.
In order to engage with members of the public who face barriers to engagement with culture on the basis of disability or vulnerability, or cultural or socio-economic barriers, Oxford University museums have invested in a shared Community Engagement Team to build relationships with key community groups, offer a bespoke and tailored relationship with the museums, and take collections out to individuals in the community who cannot come into the museums. Their work includes activities such as:
- Taking collections out to hospital schools to facilitate hands-on learning sessions for vulnerable young people
- Developing a regular series of touch tours for blind and partially sighted people
- Creating resources to support visits with families with children suffering from autism
- Working with Saturday Schools to bring children and their carers into the museums to engage with and interpret collections from their own culture
- Co-curating with communities to tell their own stories, such as a recent exhibition with local traveller groups
- Forming partnerships with refugee groups, homeless charities, prisons and probation services on activities to support inclusion and wellbeing
- Taking handling collections to hospitals and care homes, engaging older people through touch and reminiscence.
Demand for our services outstrips supply. The team's work has grown considerably in response to demand, and now directly benefits over 10,000 people a year. We need additional financial help to make our existing resources - mainly our brilliant staff - stretch much further. By donating today, you will be helping share our amazing collections with a broad community. For example:
- £5 will cover the travel costs for one of our Community Engagement team to visit a hospital school with objects from our handling collections
- £10 will pay for an elderly person to enjoy a museum outreach session in their care home
- £50 will pay for transport for a small community group to visit the museums, who would not otherwise be able to.
We hope you have had the opportunity to visit Oxford University museums and be inspired here. Please help us bring that experience to people facing a difficult start, or end, to life. Your donation will make a tremendous difference to our work.