Museums & adult learners
At a time when people are living longer and healthier lives, and are returning to education at multiple points for personal and career development, museums provide a stimulating environment in which adult visitors can learn both individually and in groups.
Independent adult learners are often pursuing their personal passions and the V&A website can help them in that endeavour with over a million object records to search online, as well as articles on a huge range of topics relating to the collections, bibliographies and suggestions of other websites to look at. We recognise that adult learners often have experience, information and creativity that they can share with the Museum and with other visitors, and we offer a wide range of opportunities to do this on the website.
A large and varied temporary exhibitions programme draws on research by curators and external scholars and covers a wide range of topics relating to art, design and performance. The Museum’s Futureplan programme has resulted in redesigned galleries that are rich in interpretation as well as objects, with videos, audio points, handling objects and computer interactives allowing visitor to access and enjoy the displays in greater detail. It is also possible to view objects in store by appointment and our Opinions Service is run by curatorial staff on the first Tuesday of every month for those who want to find out more about their family heirlooms and other works of art and design that they own. The National Art Library is a major public reference library, as well as being the V&A’s curatorial department for the art, craft and design of the book. It is free to use upon completion of the registration process, which can be done online.
The Museum also provides a huge, changing programme of events for adults from every walk of life who are interested in developing their knowledge of art and culture and learning more about the Museum’s extraordinarily rich collections. Events range from free gallery talks to year-long Art History courses and practical workshops. Sign up via the website for our Events and Courses e-newsletter to keep up to date. Additional special events and trips are available for those who become V&A Members. Members are also invited to attend special previews of all exhibitions and new galleries and receive free repeat entry to exhibitions, a subscription to the V&A Magazine, and access to the Members’ Room, which includes Internet access and a library.
There are three main principles underpinning the V&A’s approach to adult programmes. The first is that leisure learners want learning to be enjoyable and accessible as well as intellectually stimulating. To this end we prioritise clear and engaging presentation, lively and flexible formats, imaginative content and good organisation. This also helps us create events that can accommodate audiences of different ages, educational backgrounds and levels of expertise. Secondly, the unique advantage for anyone learning at the V&A is the chance to examine real objects rather than reproductions, and all our events encourage engagement with works in the galleries. And thirdly, we believe that adult learning, unlike learning at school, needs to incorporate a more equal relationship between the tutor and student, which means we emphasise the importance of learning through discussion and sharing knowledge as well as through lectures and presentations.
For adults with disabilities we strive to provide the best possible access to the Museum’s galleries, website and programmes. Large print labels, audio points and Braille labels are available in many galleries and material on the website is available in a range of different formats, including audio using free Browsealoud software. We run dedicated talks and handling sessions for blind and partially-sighted visitors and for deaf and hard of hearing visitors, and regularly offer BSL interpretation for our high-profile Friday night talks. We can also provide BSL interpretation on demand for other events and assistance for wheelchairs-users. Free places are available for a carer accompanying any visitor with a disability at all our events.