About purpleSTARS 

Click the text to Read our essay chapter purpleSTARS: Inclusive Curation and Production Creates
Inclusive Museums
in Inclusive Digital Interactives: Best Practices and Research, Access Smithsonian, MuseWeb & Institute for Human Centered Design
Logo of Access Smithsonian

Large group waving
purpleSTARS pop up museum

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS stands for Sensory, Technology and Art Resource Specialists

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS are a inclusive research team with and without disabilities/differences who work with art, sensory materials and technology, co-producing with Museums displays that appeal to all of our senses. We think this will make Museums more interesting for all types of visitors.

We think that being able to touch and feel things in Museums makes a visit more interesting. We think we should be able to even smell and even taste things in museums, as well as seeing and hearing them. That is our idea of a really interesting Museum!

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS will help museums to use technology and art to create displays that use all of our senses in this way.

The purple STARS, Sensory, Technology & Art, Resource Specialists is being funded for the first year by the Arts and Humanities Research Council AHRC developed from the award-winning AHRC-funded Sensory Objects Project and the need to build a more sustainable model for the work to continue.


The original Sensory Objects project in 2012-15 brought together people with learning disabilities and researchers to enrich experience and encourage inclusivity within museums and heritage sites through the development of sensory interactive objects.

Working with the inclusive employment agency Jobs Enterprise and Training (JET), part of the Tower Project charity, we are developing opportunities for people with learning disabilities creating a training, sensory experiences and consultancy service that can help museums and heritage sites to realise more accessible and meaningful experiences for their visitors with learning disabilities.

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS products will be available to museums and heritage sites and these products will be trialed during 2017-2018.The pilot process will enable us to refine our product and service packages so that we can replicate and deliver effectively to future paying clients. Each of these three models draws on a ‘toolkit for engagement’, comprising tools and methods that were prototyped in the original Sensory Objects project and that we demonstrated to be effective in engaging people with learning disabilities in museum and heritage sites.

  1. cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS Workshops in which museum staff engages with the local learning disability community in sensory activities, thereby providing staff with training and experience in methods of engagement.The Pilot workshop model will be refined through delivery to the Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets and the running of school-based workshops with their staff.
  2. cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS Consult work in participatory and creative ways to engage disabled people meaningfully in reviewing collections and curatorial approaches with museum staff and contractors.The Pilot consultancy will be at the British Museum as part of the Wolfson Advisory Project.
  3. cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS  Dialogues services to assist in the co-design and development of interactives in response to a museum collection.The pilot dialogue model will be at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading.

The pilots will enable us to trial the relevance and marketability of STARS services for museums and respond to client feedback. We will gain case studies that demonstrate the benefit and innovation that our methods can bring to this sector. These will then be shared as publicity and we aim to work up a detailed 5-year business strategy to provide these services for Museums nationally, generating income for a sustainable ‘Not-For-Profit’ business

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS ‘toolkit for engagement’.

The toolkit comprises technologies, artworks and associated methods that were prototyped in the original Sensory Objects project to enhance museum engagement for and facilitate communication with people with learning disabilities.

The elements of the toolkit will also be refined with our cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS Advisory Group through the pilots include:

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS DO – a printed and online instruction manual for the sensory engagement activities prototyped through our research on the earlier Sensory Objects Project, including ideas on how to conduct the activities and what materials are required. The workbook both supports workshops and serves as a basis for our provision of training.

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS COLLECTIONS – handling objects that encapsulate multisensory interpretations of an existing museum collection, curated by a people with learning disabilities. The objects may be developed as a multisensory Box, a Label or a Post Card, and we propose to develop a general template that can be applied across a broad spectrum of museum settings.

cropped-cropped-whitebackstar.gifpurpleSTARS WIKI – ‘easy-build’ multimedia websites that serve as a repository for insights, ideas and experiences shared by people with learning disabilities. The RIX Centre’s easy-build web and social media ‘Wiki’ tools serve as a platform for our STARS to organise their observations and reflections and report their findings back to the clients. Furthermore, the easy-build sites that are part of our product set will offer a valuable addition to museums’ web communication channels, enabling learning that is non-text based and so relevant to a wider spectrum of audiences.