Quiet Hour to be held at Museum for autistic visitors

The Otago Museum building is set to fall almost silent during the first hour of being open this weekend.

Between 9 and 10 am on Saturday and Sunday those on the autistic spectrum, along with their friends and families, will be able to enjoy the museum's galleries without the usual noise and hub-bub of a busy public space.

Quiet Hour ties in with this year's iNDx exhibition of art by people with autism or Asperger's, being curated by autism advocate Tanea Paterson.

Ms Paterson said many people with a diagnosis of autism were hyper-sensitive to loud sounds.

"If I'm in a crowd and people start clapping, that can really set me into fight or flight mode."

The museum will be turning off the waterfall at Tūhura's Tropical Forest and turning down in-house music to make the environment more appealing to those who want to avoid sensory overload.

Otago Museum's Rachel Cooper admires artwork in year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT
Otago Museum's Rachel Cooper admires artwork in year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT

Programmes and Events Manager Rachel Cooper said opening an hour before normal made the museum more accessible to those who experienced sensory sensitivity.

"People can come in and have a bit of time to themselves - there won't be the noisiness, there won't be the hustle and bustle."

The public exhibition of autistic art, in the HD Skinner Annex, covers a wide range, including landscapes, abstract pastel drawings, video screens and even life-size cosplay figurines.

While the artists were all on the autism spectrum, they should not be pigeon-holed, Ms Paterson said.

"As you can see with the amazing array of unique expressions, there's a lot of individuality within the group."

Warren Goodwin assembles his Dalek model for this year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT
Warren Goodwin assembles his Dalek model for this year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT

Rather than just trying to communicate through speech, finding other channels of communication could be an important step when interacting with an autistic person.

"We may say things that we have read and it may not actually be how we feel - so we might mimic things."

For her, the iNDx art exhibition was an example of an alternative channel of communication.

"Each of the artists is communicating something to us."

Otago Museum is also hosting several talks about autism this month, as well as holding a Quiet Hour in Tūhura science centre both days of next weekend.

Warren Goodwin's life-size science fiction character in this year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT
Warren Goodwin's life-size science fiction character in this year's iNDx exhibition. Photo: ODT

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