Saturday 27 March 2010

(T) Statues awaiting your Touch: Tactual Museum, Greece

Aphrodite (Venus) of Melos, Hermes of Praxiteles, Zeus of Artemision all stand, waiting to be groped by visitors.

“Please do not touch” recall continuously to visitors, young and old, guides and signs in museums, in an effort to protect the exhibits, at the price, however of making the museum seem distant or boring, especially for children. There is however a museum, where touching is not only allowed but…imposed! “Grope the Stele”, “Turn the head of the Kouros to see his carefully combed hair”, “Touch the statue and the folds of its clothes”, encourages the guide and the children happily oblige.

In the Tactual Museum the rules are not strict. There are no show cases and the exhibits stand there waiting to be “stroked”. In exchange they take the visitor on a journey to the past.

Aphrodite of Melos, Hermes of Praxiteles, the Charioteer of Delphoi, Zeus of Artemision, the Kouros of Volomandra, the Child of Kritias, “sculpted” in plaster, exact copies of the marble or bronze originals or just some of the statues housed in the Tactual Museum.

A rich collection of life sized statues, reliefs, busts, maquettes of ancient theatres and sanctuaries, vases, funerary steles, sculptures and everyday objects of all periods of ancient Greek art are displayed…at the tips of visitors fingers.

Apart from an important ancient Greek collection the museum has halls dedicated to the Byzantine era and also the Olympic Ideal.

There only exist 4-5 such museums in the world. The tactual Museum was founded 26 years ago by the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece and it is aimed at an audience of the blind or people with serious vision problems, to help them understand by touch the importance and richness of our Cultural Heritage.

The museum is also for children, it is an effort to make them sensible to and to help them understand the problems of blind people and more generally of people with special needs. Every day the museums welcomes pupils from elementary schools who, using a special mask, enter into the world of blind people.

The Tactual Museum is housed in an old two-story neoclassical building, the base of the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece, a donation Of Empeirikos, which in 1999 was seriously damaged in the destructive earthquake that shook Athens, resulting in its temporary closure. Its restoration was completed in 2004.

In 1988 the Tactual Museum outshone 70 European museums earning the “Prize for European Museum of the Year”, while in 2004 it received the “Prize for Accesibility Programmes” from the Greek Federation of Associations of Friends of Museums, chosen from 12 musuems.

The originals of the exhibits come from various museums, including the National Atcaheological Museums of Athens, the New Acropolis Museum, Delphoi, Olympia, Herakleion.

Photo: Ethnos, Dimitris Psarros

The Children are Exited

“The response from schools is great. We are not interested in teaching the children archaeology. They can go to other museums for that, and see the originals. Our purpose if their social sensitisation. They put the mask on and understand how a blind person uses touch to see. What is more we teach them how to correctly accompany a blind person, if they are asked for help” explains to Ethnos the Museum Guide Argyro Karavinou.

The pupils of the 5th Greade of the 1st Elementary Schools of Kalyvia left with the best impressions. “It was lovely”, cried out spontaneously one of the children, when asked by the guide if the liked it. “I was impressed by having our eyes closed and understood how differently blind people understand things”, little Maria told us. “It is a different Museum, because they let us touch the antiquities and they are not shut up in showcases”, stressed little Vassiliki.

Roula Giakopoulou

Translation/adaptation: ArchaeologyMatters

Source: Ethnos, 27.03.2010

Tactual Museum:

Athinas & Doiranis 198


Tel.: 0030-210-9415222.

Web: Tactual Museum (Greek only...)

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