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Indian Music Experience Museum’s Flagship Project, Svaritha, Makes the Case for Inclusiveness in Museums
Posted on January 24, 2022
IME welcomes 600 children with neurodiverse needs and children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds within the museum for tailor-made experiences.
Bengaluru: In an effort to promote inclusiveness in museums, the Indian Music Experience Museum (IME) has embarked on its flagship community project, Svaritha Project, targeting children with neurodiverse needs (those with autism spectrum disorder and diagnosed intellectual disability) and children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. The study, supported by Kotak Mahindra Investments Limited CSR Education and Livelihood Grant, highlighted key findings that museums can implement when engaging with these two groups to increase inclusion and accessibility. .
The results are now being implemented at IME, and over 550 children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and over 50 with neurodiverse needs have been brought to the museum for experiential learning and workshops, which have been designed based on report results.
IME will also host two online panel discussions with experts to further discuss the findings, on January 27 and 28 at 5:00 p.m. IST via Zoom. Details of these roundtables can be found at www.indianmusicexperience.org.
For children with neurodiverse needs, the study found that many require one-on-one assistance and frequent break points in public places like museums. Also, between spaces or activities, careful transitions using cues like ringing a bell or clapping will help children feel comfortable. Many are non-verbal and need help expressing their needs. Museums can therefore provide communication kits that help them do this.
The museum environment should be set up for sensory sensitivity, with no background music, uniform temperature throughout, and bright, warm lighting. Multi-sensory and customizable exhibits are a good way to engage children with neurodiverse needs, as well as exhibits that celebrate diversity and advocate for inclusion. The study also revealed that children would prefer exclusive time at the museum, in guided tours with groups of 3 or 4 for 2 or 3 hours maximum, and a break every 30 to 60 minutes. Prior to the visit, museums may send out a pre-visit information package to help prepare parents and guardians and to assess children’s needs.
The second study, which looked at children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds – a first of its kind in India – found that these children value choice and agency on outings, preferring to explore on their own. To do this, museums can have fewer rules, open questions and play time. These children seek linguistic diversity and representation in museums, as they often feel out of place – museums can change this creating multilingual instructions on how to use exhibits, hygiene facilities and other things that may be new to them. Food is also an important part of any outing, and they particularly look forward to snacks and exciting meals like biryani and noodles. To be truly inclusive and empathetic to children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, museums should create space for them to add to an exhibit and express themselves, as this will make them feel like they belong.
Looking at how museum staff and volunteers can support children, the study found that they will need regular training to engage children in music, movement and role play. For children with neurodiverse needs, training should be provided on communication toolkits and support for parents and caregivers in a crisis. For people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, staff and volunteers need to be trained in trauma-informed practices to understand the types of backgrounds they may have had and the behaviors these might engender.
A milestone for IME and other museums and arts organizations
Commenting on the findings, Manasi Prasad, Museum Director, IME, said, “Over the past year, IME has shifted strongly towards using music as a tool for change and community building. Music has the power to impact lives beyond performance and learning, and can make children feel included and valued. We believe that music is for everyone, and it has been especially gratifying to see children from underprivileged and neurodiverse backgrounds reacting so positively to the warm and welcoming environment of the museum. We hope that our publication and project work will inspire Indian museums and cultural institutions to actively reach out to communities beyond traditional audiences and to make cultural spaces welcoming and accessible to all. Our goal is to continue the Svaritha project over the next few years and we look forward to the support of donors, volunteers and partner organizations in this endeavour.
Dr. Kalpana Purushothaman – Member Magistrate, Juvenile Justice Board, Bangalore (Urban) commented: “Children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are often denied or deprived of access to arts, music and other forms of cultural capital as their families are often engaged in a constant struggle and fight for survival, art or music often seems like a luxury, and this is where access to spaces like a music museum can come in handy. bridge for children to be exposed to various types of music, musicians, instruments, etc., and open up a whole new world of experiences for them.
The Svaritha project was led by Ms. Tiggy Allen, Operations Manager at ReReeti Foundation for Museums, Galleries and Heritage Sites, and Dr. Kalpana Purushottaman, Adjunct Professor at the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research (IIPR), member of the Juvenile Justice Board, Bangalore, Ms Sangitha Krishnamurthi, co-founder of The Teacher Collective, special education consultant and teacher trainer, Ms Sonal Raja, clinical psychologist, Ms Shivani Shah, architect and Anant scholar, and the project trainees Ms. K. Nitya Devayya, Ms. Sookthi Kav, Ms. Ayadi Mishra and Ms. Varsha Anand.