Sensory Objects started in 2012 as a three-year AHRC-funded project to make museums more inclusive by listening to, and acting on, research by people with learning disabilities.

Led by associate professor Kate Allen, working with Faustina Hwang and Nic Hollinworth from the University of Reading, and Andy Minnion, director of RIX Research & Media. The project proved so successful that it now has further AHRC funding to work with RIX Research & Media and The Tower Project’s Job Enterprise and Training Service, an inclusive employment agency, to co-develop STARS (Sensory, Technology & Art Resource Specialists), providing sustainable employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities to work in museums.

During its initial three years, Sensory Objects held more than 60 sensory art and technology workshops at the National Trust’s Speke Hall in Liverpool, the MERL, and the British Museum. Key to the project was engaging people with learning disabilities as co-researchers. In multi-sensory art and electronics workshops, co-researchers explored how the senses are used when experiencing museum and heritage sites, and then created multi-sensory interactive artworks that respond to equivalent objects at these sites.

Sensory Objects has helped create new working practices for people with learning disabilities, made public heritage sites more inclusive and enhanced public awareness of learning disability. Allen is also using Sensory Objects research to contribute to Sensory Palaces at Hampton Court London, a health and wellbeing programme for people living with dementia.

Shortlisted for the University Research Engagement and Impact Awards 2017

First published: June 2017