An outreach programme run by Oxford University Museums

Oxford University Museums

Susan Griffiths, 15.10.2012
Oxford University Museums has a joint outreach programme crossing all four of the university’s collections: the Ashmolean Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum.  

As community education office, I run programmes engaging with three different organisations across Oxford. The clientele of each organisation have their own particular needs and therefore different approaches are taken at each one.  

1. O’Hanlon House

O'Hanlon House offers direct access, emergency accommodation to those needing shelter. Given the transient nature of the clientele, regular drop-in sessions are delivered at the shelter. These are very informal, centred on the objects and delivered for an hour after lunch within a communal space.

2. Julian Housing

Julian Housing provides supported second-stage housing for people who are currently or have been homeless and are ready to make a positive change to their lifestyle. 

We offer a rolling programme of “VIP visits” with clients given a general tour of one museum as well as “behind-the-scenes” access.

3. Crisis Skylight

The Crisis Skylight centre in Oxford offers accredited and non-accredited courses for those who are homeless or vulnerably housed. This is a more formal learning environment, where we support non-accredited sessions.

The link between all these tailored programmes is the opportunity for participants to access real objects and engage with different people from across all four museums.

They also help encourage new ways for people to engage more with their local community, perhaps even visiting the museums for the first time.   

It helps to break down barriers on both sides – from those members of the homeless community who may be approaching the museums for the first time, to members of staff within the museums who may be approaching this particular audience for the first time.  

Susan Griffiths is the community education officer at Oxford University Museums