DiscoveryPENs launch at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

With almost half a million visitors per annum and the recent revealing of one of the latest pieces from the world-famous street artist Banksy, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is one of the top 60 attractions (by visitor number) in the UK, according to the Association Of Leading Visitor Attractions (AVLA).

It is only fitting that one of the leading museums and art galleries in the UK has become an innovator by taking on DiscoveryPENs. This was made possible by a grant from The Clothworkers’ Foundation.

What are DiscoveryPENs?

DiscoveryPENS allow those with differing levels of visual impairment the opportunity to hear the audio description of the piece along with a further professional insight.

The benefits of this are twofold. First, it allows the user to learn more about the piece without having to read what is often in a rather small print. However, second, and maybe more importantly, the descriptions really bring the pieces to life, allowing those with a visual impairment, regardless of the severity, to visualise what is in front of them.

How well were the pens received?

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery initially invited various people with visual impairments to the French Art Gallery section in the museum to test the DiscoveryPENS. Suffice to say that the DiscoveryPENS were a huge success.

All the visually impaired individuals were happy with the simplicity of the pen and how it allowed them to gain a different perspective despite their impairment.

One visitor said, “The DiscoveryPEN is the difference between coming, and not coming (to the gallery)”. Others said the DiscoveryPENS gave them independence as they were not so dependent on loved ones. Many of the visually impaired said that the pens would not only allow them to feel more included, but would also allow them the opportunity to visit the museum alone, without guidance.

Beneath each painting in the French Art Gallery was a plaque with text description and a tangible specially cut-out medallion which contained the sound spot. Unlike text, the audio description were much longer and more descriptive, guiding the visitor in their imagination of what the artist was conveying. The audio descriptions were made by ‘ the friends of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’.