purpleSTARS were asked to share our inclusive research methods and sensory objects at the Newham Citizen Science Fair. Co-researchers Ajay Choksi, Samantha Walker, and Kate Allen exhibited some of the sensory museum labels we co-produced, inspired by objects in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery.

People enjoyed experiencing our research, it was very enjoyable sharing ideas with young people!

Ajay Choksi, co-researcher

two women looking at sensory objects
Samantha talks to a visitor about creating her sensory label for the Enlightenment Gallery

Our first design experiments creating a multi-sensory museum label used sound recordable cards. Each co-researcher chose an object from the museum collection and drew images, found sounds, textures etc to create a sensory experience of the item. From these beginnings we developed the sensory label creating laser cut wooden boxes with engraved drawings, smell chambers and micro controllers to trigger soundscapes.

At the Fair we offered visitors the opportunity to create a sensory museum label about something important to them, that they wanted to share with people in the future. Visitors were given a recordable card on which they could develop their ideas for a sensory label through drawing, text, and adding texture.

museum visitors doing activities
Visitors at Newham Science Fair creating sensory museum labels and playing smell bingo

Visitors also helped our research to create an easy-use, self-assembly DIY version of our sensory label by having a go at assembling a prototype of the DIY kit.

I enjoyed today helping the children at the science fair making the cards. It was fun.

Samantha Walker, co-researcher

museum visitors exploring sensory objects
Visitors testing ease of construction of easy use sensory labels

Science Fair attendees also engaged with some of our other action research methods, exploring the sense of smell through a game of smell bingo and telling a sensory story to be recorded for our Suitcase Stories.

suitcase stories
Rainbow label, purpleSTARS Suitcase Stories, Suitcase Story passport stamp

We also displayed our smell research poster with a QR code for a 360 online exhibition, London is the Place for Me, developed from listening to oral histories of past Londoners, co-produced for the Museum of London. We are researching the potential of offering accompanying scents/smells for virtual exhibitions and museum displays, which led us to ask the question, “How does equality smell?”

museum visitors making labels
Ajay helping visitors create sensory museum labels, and in the background our Smell Research poster

We met Des Blake, a Newham resident and member of The Hackney and Newham History Social Club.

Hackney and Newham History Social Club

Des recorded his thoughts on one of our sound recorders and gave us some great feedback.

“This table is really good news for me, because you don’t normally see this sort of sensory event going on at a science event.”

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360 captured image of purpleSTARS table at the Newham Science Fair

Hear from Des in this video and see some other visitors at work, creating sensory museum labels on the day.

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A large group of us with the Mayor of Newham at the end of the day

It was a great day, we showed all our sensory and micro controller technology research, creating sensory museum labels and much more

Ajay Choksi

Written by Ajay Choksi
Pictures Ajay Choksi and Kate Allen
Edited by Kate Allen

Newham Citizen Science Fair

In our recent collaboration with The National Archives, Natalie and Sarah from the Education Department visited our newly established office at the Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability on January 30, 2024. Building on insights gathered from our previous trip, this feedback session sought to develop strategies to enhance the accessibility and inclusivity of the collections at The National Archives.

group of people
Co-researchers from Rix Inclusive Research, PurpleSTARs and staff from The National Archives after our session

In close collaboration with our co-researchers with lived experiences and purpleSTARS, this session explored alternatives to ensure that the museum exhibits cater to diverse sensory sensitivities. The discussions centred around creating an environment where historical artefacts and exhibits can be appreciated by everyone.

After our previous trip to The National Archives, we explored innovative ways to share items from the collection with sensory dimensions. Using materials such as coconut husks and old books, visitors could better understand historical artefacts with an interactive experience. Drawing inspiration from previous collaborations with museums, sensory boxes and virtual experiences were also explored as alternatives to the museum experience.

clay seals
Seal replicas, made of clay and carved by each participant, at the end of the session

The incorporation of easy read materials, audio experiences and hands-on activities also emerged as key strategies to make historical information inclusive. We also tried our hands at designing our own seals, a replication of the historical seals shown at The National Archives. This hands-on activity not only provided active engagement with historical materials but also added a personal twist to the museum experience.

By including sensory experiences in the museum experience, we hope to make historical information accessible to a broader audience. We recognise the importance of empowering individuals through knowledge, especially for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

What we thought of the session

What was one important thing you learnt from the session?

After visiting the National Archives, I realised the importance of keeping the old collections safe. It provides us with an understanding of where things come from, who they belong to, who they are for, and what is their purpose.
There were lots of old collections such as old files, books and stamps that are important to understand history.

What was your favourite moment from the session?

My favourite moment is seeing and recreating the seal stamps, as it reminds of putting stamps on letters and leaving a signature.
I enjoyed creating my own seal with purpleSTARS, designing and incorporating the Wiki design into my seal.

Have you got any tips for The National Archives to make it more accessible?

A lot of the collections were hard to read because they were in a different language, so translation into English is needed.
Some of the old letters and files were also in different formats and handwriting, which made it challenging to read. Having an easy read version would make it more accessible for everyone.

What worked well about the session and what didn’t work so well?

The session worked well as we were able to come down to visit the old archives, which were kept safe and secure. There were staff members that showcased the collections, allowing us to get a better glimpse and understanding of the materials. This helped us with coming up with ways to improve the accessibility of the materials.

Written by Synne Lim

The National Archives

Racial equity remains a pressing challenge in the field of social work. As Social Workers strive to address systemic inequalities and uplift marginalised communities, it is crucial to examine the barriers that exist within the profession itself.

This workshop explored the intersection of racial equity and career progression in social work, uncovering the disparities faced by professionals of different nationalities and highlighting the importance of creating inclusive pathways for advancement.

By highlighting these disparities, our aim is not to perpetuate divisiveness but rather to promote awareness and action. It is only through acknowledging and addressing these inequities that we can work towards a more just and inclusive social work profession. Students had the opportunity to critically examine their own biases, assumptions, and privileges. This self-reflection enabled every social work student to recognise and challenge any implicit biases they may hold, fostering personal growth and a commitment to anti-racist values and actions.

Planning and preparation

The Racial Equity and Career Progression in Social Work symposium brought together esteemed speakers who shared their expertise on various aspects of the topic.

Mark Wheeler – social work lead, BA course lead
Racial Equity and Career Progression project with Northeast London Social Work Teaching Partnership

Paul Christian / Sue Ledger
Black Lives Matter

Gwen Bryant – Practice Educator of the Year 2023
The power of language

Pharida Czarny – newly qualified Social Worker, UEL graduate
A Roma perspective

Owen Gardner – Advisors in Mental Health Services (AIMHS) co-ordinator
A lived experience and Family Group Conference coordinator perspective

The discussions centred around promoting diversity, equality, and inclusivity within social work, with a specific focus on addressing racial disparities and systemic racism. The speakers emphasised the need for social workers to reflect on their practice and advocate for marginalised communities. They highlighted the power of language in shaping perceptions and interactions, advocating for the use of inclusive and empowering language in social work. The speakers also shed light on the unique challenges faced by specific communities, such as the Roma community, and the importance of cultural competence in providing effective and equitable social work services.

screen with text
Reflections of a Social Worker

About us

For Stephanie and I (Elizabeth), taking the initiative to organise an event focused on combating racism made us feel empowered which came with a sense of responsibility. We also took into consideration creating a safe and inclusive space where participants can engage in meaningful discussions and learn from each other.
We realised that organising any event can be nerve-wracking, and an anti-racism event is no exception. We felt anxious about logistical aspects, such as planning the timeline of the speakers and ensuring that the event runs smoothly.
Despite these challenges, we found this to be an amazing opportunity to explore and expand our skills. The event provided an opportunity to engage in dialogues, raise awareness, and build connections with others who shared our commitment to combating racism. We believe in the power of education and collective action to bring about positive change.

Feedback from the day

I attended the workshop regarding racial equality and career progression in social work. I would like to say that it was very insightful to see the amount of work that had gone into the day, I was amazed by how we were incorporated into the day and able to ask questions to the presenters. Also able to speak to the outside practitioners involved in the session.

Nicola W, social work student level 5

The event provided me with eye-opening insights into the various dimensions of racism. The diverse range of speakers and topics covered broadened my understanding of the complexities surrounding racial issues.

Izabela I, social work student, level 5

It was a positive experience to hear the perspectives of individuals with varied learning styles and needs, as well as those with diverse life experiences. For instance, the practice educator who communicated through sign language, or Paul, conducting research on the Black Lives Matter movement. It was informative and also enlightening.

Nola, social work student level 5

I very much enjoyed the event. It was very well structured with a diverse range of speakers, speaking about different topics. It heightened my development awareness of anti-racist practice and how it can have an impact on me as well as service users/PWLE. Looking forward to the next event.

Sammi, social work student level 5

Attending the Racial Equity and Career Progression in Social Work workshop was an enlightening and transforming experience. I enjoyed being part of something so important and it felt amazing to be able to put my skills to use and even learn new ones. I was nervous at first, especially about talking in front of the public but I soon found everyone to be welcoming and warm, and I forgot all about my nerves.
Gaining knowledge from the speakers helped to enhance comprehension of the complex problems individuals encounter in their social work professions because of racial inequalities. This experience highlighted the importance of pushing for and putting into action concrete changes within the field to encourage diversity, break down structural obstacles, and support fair career possibilities for all social workers. Overall, this event reinforced my commitment to improving racial fairness in social work and spurred continued efforts toward genuine change.
Elizabeth J, organiser and presenter, social work student level 5

As a social work student, advocating for racial equity in our field is of utmost importance, and this workshop provided me with the tools and knowledge to better understand and address systemic racism within our profession. As one of the organisers of the event, I felt a great sense of responsibility to ensure that the event ran smoothly and that all participants felt heard and valued. This required careful planning, communication, and coordination with my colleagues to ensure that the content was relevant and engaging for all attendees.
The discussions and perspectives shared by the diverse group of participants further enriched my understanding of the intersection of race, career progression, and social work. Hearing the personal stories and struggles of my peers illuminated the need for continued advocacy and support for marginalized communities within our profession. It sparked important conversations and raised awareness about the need for continued efforts to address racial disparities and promote inclusivity in the workplace. Overall, this workshop was a valuable and transformative experience that has motivated me to continue working towards a more just and equitable social work field for all.
Stephanie P, organiser and presenter, social work student level 5

We can’t emphasise enough how important it is as social work students to be proactive and mobilise for change. We need to keep organising anti-racism workshops, foster safe spaces for dialogue, and advocate for diversity training in our programs. Together, we can challenge systemic racism, amplify marginalised voices, and promote equity in our practice and society.

Written by Elizabeth Junghietoru and Stephanie Powell