Conan Doyle—Arvon participant visit. Photograph of a BPS visitor holding one of the exhibits, a labelled shoe, up against a footprint. There are two other shoes available for measuring

BPS visitor holding a labelled shoe against a footprint.

Background

The Conan Doyle Collection is made up of 3,500 objects, 16,000 books and 40,000 archives. These are held in a permanent exhibition in Portsmouth Museum, or by appointment to see the archives in the Portsmouth History Centre. We saw this project as an opportunity to work out how to translate the collection for the enjoyment of everyone, including blind and partially sighted visitors.

 

Challenge

We wanted to find a way to encourage blind and partially sighted visitors to engage in the story of Conan Doyle, whilst gaining the confidence to create their own.

 

 

 

Conan Doyle—Arvon participant visit Sherlock. Photograph of a BPS visitor holding a print copy of “The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories”.]

BPS visitor holding a print copy of “The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories”

Solution

An opportunity arose for us to run a week-long writers’ residency for 8 people with sight loss at the Arvon Centre in Shropshire. The aim of this intensive course was to take away the focus on sight loss and concentrate on budding writers gaining the skills they needed. Arvon specialise in creative writing and have years of experience in offering courses where anyone, regardless of writing experience, can be involved and inspired. Activities during the week included talks and writing workshops by two established crime authors, Jake Arnott and Kerry Young.

 

 

 

Outcomes

The writing course has left a lasting impression on the confidence of the writers who took part. The team at the Conan Doyle Collection are now looking to commission one of the writers who took part to become a paid mentor for them and to advise on making events more accessible for blind and partially sighted audiences. An additional visit has since taken place, allowing participants from the course to visit the collection and experience the items first hand.

 

“I was more than a little nervous about it, I arrived convinced I wasn’t good enough to be there, that I would be uncovered as a fraud and sent packing. By about 6.30 on Monday evening that notion began to fade. There were times through the week I struggled and took myself off to have a moment. However, due to the people, I knew all I had to do was walk into a room and just be around others. It instantly picked me up. Having sight problems, I often feel excluded, isolated. The feeling from arrival to departure last week was one of being included. Not being defined by my disability.” Arthur Conan Doyle Collection / Arvon workshop residential participant

 

Conan Doyle—Arvon participant visit. Photograph of a BPS visitor alongside an item in the exhibition. It appears to be a set of fluorescent tubes standing upright in a wooden casing

BPS visitor alongside an item in the exhibition.

 

Top Tips

  • When organizing a residency, make sure you take into consideration everybody’s needs and requirements, including travel.
  • Recruitment needs to be done well in advance and as wide a geographical spread as possible

Think about when you plan to hold events or workshops. The Arvon residency was in January, possibly not the best month to get people to take part in a week long residency!

All case studies