A project based on research at the University of Reading is helping to make museum and heritage collections more inclusive and accessible, while facilitating valuable work experience and employment opportunities for adults with special needs.

Museums and heritage organisations are increasingly striving to reach and engage with a wider range of communities. However, there has historically been a lack of accessibility in the sector for adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD).

A new project based on research by Dr Kate Allen at the University of Reading is now addressing this issue, by helping museums, galleries and heritage sites attract, include and engage with a more diverse range of audiences.

The purpleSTARS project creates opportunities for people with LDD to work in collaboration with museums, galleries and heritage sites to develop interactive sensory experiences that encourage deeper exploration, understanding and appreciation of objects and collections.

By involving adults with LDD as co-researchers and co-producers, purpleSTARS enables museums and heritage sites to reconsider their approach to engagement with their collections. The project has informed public programming and improved the accessibility and inclusivity of collections at museums and heritage sites across the UK and beyond.

It has also influenced attitudes towards employing people with LDD within the sector, through the establishment and successful delivery of a volunteer and work placement scheme, which has created many valuable employment opportunities for adults with LDD.

Through national and international adoption of the purpleSTARS model, Allen’s research has catalysed the implementation of new policies and best practice across the museum and heritage sector and empowered adults with LDD to engage with and co-create a wide range of cultural experiences.

Find out more

Sensory Objects website

View the full impact case study on the REF 2021 website: purpleSTARS: Changing the lives of adults with learning disabilities using sensory art and technology in museums and at heritage sites