Live talks in museums and galleries – have you tried speech-to-text?

Posted on February 1, 2013

Have you tried speech-to-text? The information below comes courtesy of one of this site’s supporters – theatre access charity STAGETEXT. Find out more about them at:

If you love to spend your leisure time meeting up with friends and wandering around art galleries and museums, you’ll be excited to know that you can now enjoy a variety of talks through live speech-to-text transcription (which are like subtitles).

Many deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people will have seen speech-to-text in action at meetings, conferences and other live events, but over the past two years STAGETEXT has introduced the service for talks and lectures in museums and galleries.

STAGETEXT_Wellcome-134Here’s how it works: the speech-to-text reporter (STTR) transcribes ‘live’ what a speaker is saying using a special phonetic keyboard which converts the spoken word into English text.

This is visible to the whole audience so you can read it on a screen which is placed next to the speaker, or sometimes within the visual presentation itself, say above or below a picture that’s being discussed. There’s a short film on the STAGETEXT YouTube channel which explains how it all works so do have a look:

The first talks have covered a wide range of exciting topics, such as artists like David Hockney, Vermeer and Leonardo da Vinci, the explorer Captain Scott, the British surgeon Joseph Lister and writers like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Feedback from deaf, deafened and hard of hearing visitors has been really positive, and even hearing visitors have told us how useful they find it too!

Here are some comments:

‘Having the text was a great help in reinforcing the lecturer’s dialogue. It complemented the lecture and added to the comprehension of the exhibition.’ (hard of hearing)

‘I’ve never really understood Shakespeare. It was a good insight to how his plays related to the times.’ (deaf)

‘FANTASTIC! Inclusive technology at its best for deaf people. Equal access made possible.’ (Deaf BSL)

‘A fabulous talk – very interesting and beautiful to see connection between Japanese and European art. Superb speech-to-text helped me understand it all.’ (deaf)

‘I could not have managed without the text.’ (hard of hearing)

‘At no time did I feel left out.’.(deaf)

‘An excellent talk. The speech-to-text helped to explain the nuances of lecture.’ (hard of hearing)

Forthcoming talks

SOUTHBANK CENTRE, Purcell Room, Belvedere Road, London SE1

Unlimited: an evening of film, Wednesday 6 February, 7.45pm
A screening of ‘Total Permission’, a documentary following conductor Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra during the 2012 Unlimited festival.

BRITISH MUSEUM, Great Russell Street, London WC1

The Shock of the Old: Art in the Ice Age, Friday 1 March 6.30pm
A discussion on the artists who created the pieces in the Ice Age art exhibition, featuring Grayson Perry.

JEWISH BOOK WEEK 2013, King’s Place, York Way, London N1

Austin Ratner – The Jump Artist- The Story of Austria’s ‘Dreyfus Case’, Sunday 24 February 6.30pm-7.30pm

Adrienne Rich: Poetry and Politics, Saturday 2 March, 7.30pm-8.30pm
Adrienne Rich, one of the most influential American poets of the last century, championed the indivisibility of art and politics, offering a candid and brave articulation of feminism, sexuality, Jewish identity and civil rights.

Nights Out in Cosmopolitan London, Sunday 3 March, 5.00-6.00pm
In the years up to WW2, Soho was transformed from a dark quarter infamous for sex and crime into a mecca of shopping, restaurants and night-life entertainments. The talk looks at the contribution of Jews ‘up West’, from the schleppers of Berwick Street market to the tailors of Savile Row and the musicians of Lyons Corner Houses.

HUNTERIAN MUSEUM (Royal College of Surgeons), 35-43 Lincolns Inn Fields, London WC2

From Barbers to Surgeons, Tuesday 12 February, 1pm
Tracing the origins of the surgeons and barbers, the development of the Company of Barber-Surgeons and the events leading up to their separation.

The most unstable and unsubstantial thing possible – building the College of Surgeons, Tuesday 23 April, 1pm
A look at the buildings of the RCS from 1800 when the College moved to Lincoln’s Inn Fields until its partial destruction in 1941.

Everard Home: Hero or Villain? Tuesday 14 May, 1pm
A talk about surgeon and scientist Everard Home, author of hundreds of papers and books.

THE ROYAL COLLECTION, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1

Properly and newly built, Wednesday 27 February, 3pm
The changing face of the Renaissance residence.
This lecture describes the architectural setting of art in grand residences and the important changes in decorative fashion.

NATIONAL GALLERY, Trafalgar Square, London WC2

Conquering the landscape, Thursday 18 April, 1pm

To book tickets for the above events, please go to the relevant listing on the STAGETEXT website ( where you can find all the details. And don’t forget there’s lots of information on captioned theatre shows on the STAGETEXT website and details of how to subscribe to our FREE email list.

So far, the talks are in London, but Deepa Shastri, Live Events Programme Officer at STAGETEXT who leads the Museums and Galleries Project, is keen to roll out the service to other parts of the country very soon. So if you’re keen to see talks with STT in your area and learn more about art, history and culture, do let her know. ( Deepa also has a free e-list for people who would like to receive regular information on future talks and developments.

Photo: Talk with STT at the Wellcome Collection, London. Photo: Anthony Brown.

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Posted in: stagetext