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Pain Less participation

Hi, I’m Kayte. I work as the Audience Advocate for Pain Less. My role is to understand and promote the needs of our diverse audiences, so that the exhibition is engaging and relevant to our visitors.

You may have found out from previous posts that we’re working closely with two groups of non-museum people and you might be wondering why. So I thought I’d hop on the blogging bandwagon and try to explain…

From the very beginning we knew that the Pain Less project would involve working closely with the public in new and more inclusive ways.

Why?

We wanted to bring some alternative and unique perspectives to Pain Less. These would not only complement what we learned through research and talking to experts, but also influence what stories and topics we would explore.

However this was never simply about improving content – in this age of information-sharing and social media, people expect to participate, not just interact, to collaborate not consume. Visitors want to engage with us more deeply than by only wandering around a gallery or watching a demonstration, and the Science Museum is finding ways to make this happen.

We decided to work closely with a few specific groups of people. These groups were intended not only to represent our potential visitors, but to offer interesting and unique insights into the topic of pain.

So enter our two participatory groups: Year 9 students from Langley Academy, and a group of adult chronic pain sufferers. We engaged with both from the outset, to ensure that their involvement is not simply to interpret or comment on our perspective, but rather to inform it, to shape it and to work with us to create Pain Less.

The benefits to the project were noticed immediately – the participants brought previously untapped perspectives to the table, made us think in new ways about our content, and as a result our expertise in dialogue with visitors has vastly improved.

What happened?

Pain quickly stood out amongst the trio of anaesthesia, consciousness and pain as the most engaging and intriguing topic for both groups, and this guided the team in their thinking about the main focus of the exhibition. Our participant groups were fascinated by the relationship between the body and the mind when it feels pain, the effect your mood can have on your levels of pain, and the very personal nature of pain.

Making it relevant

The Langley group are also keen that their input is represented in a way that’s going to appeal to other young people. They have helped us develop an interactive game you can play in the exhibition or online. This approach, they said, is how they and their friends like to encounter new ideas and information. And who wouldn’t? It will be exciting, dynamic and competitive – the perfect formula for an interactive exhibit.

Our adult group’s input is more personal. Using objects, photography and film-making the group are creating an artistic response to the exhibition’s content and main themes. Their response will offer visitors a unique perspective on the exhibition, from those who live with profound and continuous pain.

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