22nd May 2020

Punching above its weight – a small museum with big virtual ambitions

The National Paralympic Heritage Trust has created free virtual tours of its national exhibitions to help the public get up close to sporting history from the comfort of their own home.

Using 3D technology, users can ‘walkthrough’ exhibition spaces and zoom in on specific artefacts or artwork, and are prompted to access video, British Sign Language, text caption and audio-description options at points of interest. At the Heritage Centre in Stoke Mandeville, newly opened just a year ago, virtual visitors can learn about the life and work of the father of the Paralympic movement, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, including his medals and teaching slides.

At Cartwright Hall in Bradford, you can hear first-hand about the inspirational Lady Susan Masham, who won medals at the first three Paralympic Games in the 1960s and whose ancestor funded the building of Cartwright Hall. At Gunnersbury Park Museum you can learn about two young Paralympians Equestrian Natasha Baker and Fencer Dimitri Coutya, as well as listen to an interview with one of our most cherished Paralympians Caz Walton who participated in the Tokyo 1964 Games.

NPHT is not simply joining the many museums and attractions rushing to recreate their spaces online as a response to the lockdown situation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. The relatively new charity, with its focus on Paralympic heritage and stories of human endeavour, has always striven to put access at the heart of its work and this includes digital access.

Whilst the current situation of ‘staying home’ is temporary for most of us, being housebound can be an on-going issue for others. Nigel Purse, Chair of the NPHT, said,

Accessibility is at the heart of our work and the experience of our virtual visit bears comparison with those of any of the leading museums in the world.

Months in the planning and making, it is therefore an opportune time for the Trust to be able to release its virtual tours which make a compelling online offer alongside a wealth of other resources such as athlete interviews, detailed histories of 32 parasports and downloadable home-schooling activities such as quizzes, colouring sheets and paper-crane origami tutorials. The Trust is also embarking on a two-year project with support from the Rothschild Foundation to train and pay disabled people to fully digitise highlights from its collections such as clothing, sports equipment, mascots, photographs and X-rays.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games may have been postponed, but with the help of the latest technology, you can still experience a little of the magic of the Paralympic Games past at your fingertips.

Visit our virtual exhibitions webpage here