Tag Archives: museum

There is no wind in my sails

It’s about the Franklin Institute again.

As a quick refresher, a while back I went to the Franklin Institute on their Sensory Friendly Day. Long story short, it went badly. VERY badly. So I wrote about my bad experience and went on with my life.

Until, that is, Adrienne Kimball, listed on the website, emailed me about my blog post. You can read about that email over here. Basically, she addressed some points about the day, and invited me to go back to meet with her and talk about ways to improve the exhibits and better warn people about sensory-unfriendly areas. I thought this was pretty awesome, and decided to take her up on it.

But then… she ignored me. I tried to email her and set things up, and got absolutely nothing in reply. Since then I’ve felt… embarrassed, honestly. Like she lied to me and I was naive enough to believe the lies. I got my hopes up and thought that maybe, FINALLY, someone actually wanted to listen to autistic adults and hear what we have to say, but then it all turned to dust.

Now I feel like I’ve run out of gas. I’m just a foolish, naive aspie who has delusions of actually Doing Something Good. I’ve been trying to remind myself of the times when y’all have told me about how my writing has helped you, which is honestly WONDERFUL to hear, but I still feel really foolish about this whole museum thing. I’m trying to take a deep breath and keep going, but this feeling of being stalled isn’t going away. So I am doing what I do best, and writing about it.

What do you do when you hit something like this?

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Franklin Institute Follow Up

A while back I wrote about an attempt to enjoy a sensory friendly day at the Franklin Institute, and how it turned out Very Badly. To sum it up, since it was over a month ago now, I went to what was billed a “sensory friendly Sunday” at the Franklin Institute. However, it turned out that “sensory friendly day” actually means “sensory friendly morning,” but this information is not necessarily readily available. It isn’t even listed on their website’s page about the event. When I had gone into the electronics exhibit, a large tesla coil went off and, well, that was that. It was painful and horrible and completely without warning.

However, a while after I wrote that post, I actually heard from the Assistant Director of Museum Programs from the Franklin Institute! I wrote back asking permission to share her email in my blog but never did hear back, so I guess I’ll just try to sum it up. Her email covered three basic points.

  1. I had complained in my post that there was only one sensory friendly day every two months, which is not much. She pointed out that there is a lot of demand and competition for different programs and events, and they are happy that they can offer as much as they can. And… point taken. Not exactly delightful to hear (it can sound a bit like “take what you can get and be grateful!”) but honestly, that is sorta where I am at the moment anyway. And it IS nice that they are making an effort – not everyone out there is.
  2. She agreed that the electricity exhibit is a problem. “It is an extremely sensory-unfriendly experience, and based on your feedback, we can begin a conversation internally of how to better inform guests of what they will experience.” That’s pretty awesome, and I hope eventually they are able to make improvements. Heck, I’d be happy to contribute to that conversation, assuming I’d even have anything to add or would be welcome.
  3. The next sensory friendly day (morning) is September 13th, which is only two weekends away. She expressed a hope that I would try again, and if so, email her so she could meet me in person!

That last point is the one that I am most bouncy about. Meet an official museum person? To maybe talk about museum stuff? And sensory stuff? just… wow! I haven’t solidly decided to do so yet, but I think I should. Going on my own is still really hard, but if I can find someone to haul along with me, I think I would really like to try.

I’m writing this for two reasons.

  1. This is pretty cool, and I wanted to share. Yay for hearing from a museum person!
  2. I want your thoughts. What do you think of the points raised? Do you think I should try to meet her? If I do, what sorts of things would you like me to remember or keep in mind or mention?

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Filed under request

Museum day

So this sunday I went to the Franklin Institute. I greatly enjoy museums, and a friend of mine had found a leaflet from the museum proclaiming “Sensory-Friendly Sundays.”

The description on the front says, “The Franklin Institute is proud to welcome families, adults, and groups with members on the autism spectrum to Sensory-Friendly Sunday, a day to enjoy the museum in your own way and in your own time. All are welcome!”

I’ll repeat on bit here: “a day to enjoy the museum.”

It only occurs one Sunday every two months, which I thought was kind of dismal, but I was also heartened that they were having sensory-friendly days at all, and I wanted to try it. So on one of the days listed, we went.

Well, we got there in the early afternoon and started poking around. We didn’t see much different about it but weren’t too concerned about that as it was being an enjoyable time. There were various enjoyable things to look at and interact with and it was going fairly well.

Until we got to the electricity section. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong. It turns out that on the ceiling in the middle of the electricity exhibit there is a fairly large tesla coil. A tesla coil that goes off incredibly loudly, with no warning whatsoever.

We were there in the room, looking at an exhibit, when an incredibly loud, deeply painful ROAR occurred. Nothing was going wrong or was broken (as I first thought must have been happening). Nope, apparently that is just part of the exhibit. No signs warning us of it (at least that I saw), no announcement or notice ahead of time, just a sudden, horrible noise.

Honestly, that pretty much took everything out of me. Once I could feel my limbs again I left the room. And I tried to keep doing the museum, I really did. I didn’t want that to destroy the day. But honestly, I just couldn’t. It had taken too much out of me. It had been too painful. It was not long after that I realized I really had to leave.

Which, of course, brought up the question – what happened to this sensory-friendly day the museum was supposed to be having? A loud, painful noise given without any warning whatsoever, so that no one in the vicinity has a choice whether to be subjected to it or not, is extremely far from sensory-friendly. I would call it downright sensory UNfriendly. Maybe a sensory onslaught.

Before we left we went back into the ticketing area and looked for another copy of the leaflet to look at. A task which proved somewhat difficult, but we eventually found one. Turned out carefully looking over it and reading all the details on the back gave some critical extra information. “Specially adapted exhibits throughout the museum from 8:00 am-12:30pm” (emphasis mine). Now, I will grant you that it is my own fault for not reading the fine print. However, I do not think it’s my own fault for thinking that “day” (as mentioned in their description) actually means “day” rather than simply “morning.” But apparently when they say “day” they mean “morning” and personally, I think I’m justified in being unhappy at their word choice. I find it disingenuous.

Even for an autistic adult there is aftermath to such an event (and if it had happened when I was a child, I can only imagine the meltdown that likely would have resulted). Somehow my friend and I made it back to their apartment despite the fact that I was shutting down and finding it increasingly difficult to walk. I wound up collapsed on my friend’s bed, wearing their noise-cancelling headphones, for I don’t even know how long as I slowly, gradually, came out of my shutdown and became able to deal with the general noise and chaos of the world again.

I also want to mention what my friend was pointing out – while that noise was particularly bad for anyone with sensory difficulties, even neurotypicals would find it bad. As they put it, “It’s just really fucking loud and completely without warning. Most people don’t go to the museum to have the crap scared out of them.”

I am extremely unhappy with the Franklin Institute and think what they did, what they are doing, in the electricity exhibit is wrong on multiple levels. Is it really so impossible for those already rare sensory friendly days to actually be, you know, a whole DAY? Is there no reason they cannot give warning when they are about to assault their guests’ senses so we can opt out if we choose?

This was not ok.

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Filed under issue, rant