Kapitulli 9. A museum for the blind (UiL)

Kapitulli 9. A museum for the blind (UiL)

A Museum for the Blind

Our best practice will give you a wonderful journey in one of the museums of Spain #

The museum was founded in 1992. It came out of a desire to offer blind and visually impaired people the chance to access a museum in a standard way. Many of the people behind the idea have a personal understanding of living with visual impairment. This means that the design of the museum puts the user’s needs first. The artwork is specially crafted to provide a fascinating tactile experience for the visitor.

This Spanish museum throws the ‘do not touch’ signs out of the window. The whole concept is that visitors explore with their hands. This museum for the blind exhibits artistic works that are experienced through a sense of touch. The museum showcases models of famous buildings, alongside paintings, sculptures and textile art. It also focuses on art made by blind people and documents the history of people with visual impairments. The museum hosts temporary installations of topics and art related to blindness. 

This museum is different. It is set up for everything to be touched. Even when there are glass panels to protect delicate things, they slide back so that curious hands can get to the artifact.

 

The whole ethos of the museum is about accessibility, when you walk in you find a tactile floor plan, Braille on the doors, reception staffed by a helpful, lady who was visually impaired herself, different flooring textures to differentiate walkways from galleries and audio messages to indicate stairs coming up or a new gallery.

In the museum there are two galleries containing models of famous buildings. One has buildings from all over the world and the other, buildings from Spain. The models are wonderful, very detailed and made from different materials like wood, stone, metal, plastic etc. Many of the models have a small version or smaller scale plan next to them to allow you to get an overview of the shape and layout of the building before exploring the larger model. You can touch an aqueduct from Spain that came in three different sized scaled models, the Coliseum from Rome and the Alhambra Palace (you can even take the roof off one of the parts of this building to feel the incredible carvings that are inside it).

A third gallery has a collection of materials and appliances that relate to the history of the production of Braille and tactile materials. Wonderful old braille’s from all over the world, Slates and styluses and calculating machines.

There were also galleries containing tactile artworks by VI artists as well as a shorter term exhibition which featured some fantastically tactile sculptures.

A truly inclusive museum should foster collaboration and extend touch tours to sighted people too, writes Georgina Kleege

An effective touch tour embraces the reality that touch changes everything. When touch is brought into a museum context, it alters the fundamentals of both time and space.