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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

Talking Objects

6 July 15 -- jsuess

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund.

The aim of this project was to produce 12 audio programmes about the 4 museums and their collections.  These programmes were designed to provide an alternative interpretation of objects for new audiences, particularly those with visual impairments and patients at the local Oxfordshire Hospital Trust who are physically unable to visit the museums.  We also hoped to expand our online audience.

The audio programmes were designed to provide a different approach to accessing the museums’ collections that went beyond the more traditional interpretations of the objects.  We hoped to achieve this by using different voices and reactions to the objects.  The first sets of recordings were with a number of different members of museum staff talking about a series of objects.  Recordings were then made of interactions with these objects by patients from the Oxfordshire Hospital Trust and from members of other community groups visited by the Community Education Officer.  This captured the awe and wonder of people as they interacted with the objects for the first time.  

The Community Education officer was then able to use her training in audio description techniques to produce texts describing the objects in such a way that will allow those who are blind or partially sighted to get a more accurate representation of those objects.  These formed the third set of recordings.  

three elements were then professionally edited into 15 minute podcasts, providing different layers of information and alternative interpretations to the objects.  These programmes will also be extended into half-hour radio programmes which will be broadcast on Radio Cherwell, the local hospital radio.  This will allow the patients within the hospital that cannot physically access the museums to be able to experience them in a new and creative way.  The recordings will also be made available as podcasts to be downloadable from the Joint Museums Website and the University iTunesU page.  

The Innovation Fund money enabled us to pay for professional recording and editing to ensure the quality of the recordings.  This also gave us access to advice and training and provided invaluable experience which we hope to use for further podcasts in the future.  It also enabled us to purchase a professional quality voice recorder which will ensure that we are able to produce podcasts of a similar quality in the future.   

A set of DiscoveryPens (audio playback devices) were also purchased.  The recordings will also be used to produce 5 copies of a soundbook using these DiscoveryPens.  These books will contain simple images of the objects and “sound spots” with the recordings which can be activated using the DiscoveryPens.  We hope to use these books on future visits to the hospital, with blind and partially sighted groups and other community groups.   The volunteers from Radio Cherwell will also be able to borrow the soundbooks to leave with patients at the hospital, allowing them access to the museums and their collections whenever they wish.

The project provided new experiences and opportunities for the Community Outreach team.  It allowed us to develop a new relationship with Oxfordshire Hospital Trust through Radio Cherwell, provide a new way of interacting with community groups and contributed to the professional development of the Community Education Officer.  It has been an incredibly enjoyable project and we hope to continue to make the podcasts in the future.