Sight Loss Council pilot opens up masterpieces to visually impaired people

A pilot online art description project involving six members from Gloucestershire, Bristol, Merseyside and the Black Country Sight Loss Councils has led Royal Collection Trust to launch free monthly sessions, opening up masterpieces from the Royal Collection to blind and partially sighted people across the country.

Royal Collection Trust (RCT), the charity which manages the public opening of the Official Residences of The Queen and cares for the Royal Collection, hosts regular exhibitions to provide public access to the royal art collection.

For every exhibition it hosts, RCT runs descriptive tours designed for blind and partially sighted people at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. With the increased restrictions for people visiting, RCT trialled an online session with Sight Loss Council members. The Descriptive Zoom was so successful it will now be offering these sessions every month from December to March.

Steven Ewens from Bristol Sight Loss Council said:

“I am very proud to have been involved in this pilot project and influence RCT to put regular descriptive sessions online for blind and partially sighted people to enjoy. The session itself was fascinating. The curators were so knowledgeable and truly brought the masterpieces to life as they described the painting and gave a bit of information on its history and the painter. It was brilliant!”

Amy Stocker, Access Manager, Royal Collection Trust, said:

“Covid was the stimulus that made us look at how we can still provide access to the Collection to blind and partially sighted people. We had never done these digitally before but the pilot was so successful, we decided to make this a monthly Descriptive Zoom event.

“Art experts from RCT will describe the paintings and bring these to life while its historians will provide a background to the artists. Attendees will be able to ask questions. We want it to be really interactive.

“Working with Sight Loss Council members helped us to hone down how the sessions should run. It was a real joy to work with them and it lifted me. I am really excited these will become a regular fixture in the RCT calendar. And the beauty of the online sessions is that it is open for people who live further afield and who may find it difficult to come to London in person.”

The sessions, free for blind and partially sighted people to attend, will take place on the first Tuesday of every month. A painting from the Collection, usually on display in one of The Queen’s official royal residencies, will be described. This will include masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Sessions will last about an hour and interaction is encouraged. Spaces are limited. For more information and to book a place please email or call 07860 612393.

The Sight loss Council members who worked with RCT on the pilot are: Ann Lightfoot (Gloucestershire SLC), Permjt Bhachu (Black Country SLC), Steven Ewens, Liz Illingworth and Shelagh Austin (Bristol SLC) and Harriet Dunn (Merseyside SLC).

The new Descriptive Zoom sessions form part of the events programme for RCT’s new exhibition: Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, which runs from 1 December 2020 to January 2022. More information on the full exhibition: 


About Royal Collection Trust

Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The Queen. Income generated from admissions and from associated commercial activities contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational programmes. Royal Collection Trust’s work is undertaken without public funding of any kind.

The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. It comprises almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts and is spread among some 15 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public. The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the nation and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual. 

Publication date: 25 November 2020

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