Pompeii -- for the hard, and not so hard, of hearing
This is a recantation.
I did the first of our British Museum gigs for the Pompeii show on Friday (a discussion with Robert Harris -- more below). In the run up to the event I had been asked to give all kinds of information (spellings etc) to help the person who was doing the running sub-titling for deaf people.
I did this with enthusiasm, but I should confess -- I guess -- that I have generally thought that these gestures to the hard of hearing were really more gestures than useful or real. As I've said before on this blog, I've always suspected that a tick-box culture was at work in many of the initiatives for the disabled.
By that I mean that when we have put an automatic door-opener on the front door of the Faculty, we imagine we have done our bit ... when actually we should be looking out, much more widely, for how we make things work for those who cant open the doors.
So far, so cynical.
But last Friday night was an eye-opener for me (an ear opener you might say).
Robert Harris was great as an "introducer" to Pompeii. We talked about the taps and the water supply and how you might think about the Romans as engineers, in a way that made a difference to how people really lived (not just grand aqueducts, but garden fountains etc.)
It will all be online soon. But the fun was going backwards and forwards between the familiarity of "tap culture" and the wildly different priorities the Romans had about water .. display fountains versus service infrastructure.
What in the end struck me was the impact of the subtitling (which I had always thought a bit of a gesture). I was wrong. Out of 320 in the audience, 35 used the subtitling -- that's more tha 10% of the audience,.
I met many of that 10% after the discussion, and they were all spot on (to my shame). They rightly pointed out that my Meet the Romans DVD did not have subtitles, so was useless to those who couldnt hear. I had never thought of that before. But I have now and I feel a bit humbled. (And I have passed it on!)
(There is a great account of the BM occasion here.)