Scale model helps blind and partially-sighted visitors to enjoy a museum visit more independently

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Scale model helps blind and partially-sighted visitors to enjoy a museum visit more independently
Scale model at the Van Gogh Museum, developed with the support and expertise of the Bartiméus Fonds and Stichting Accessibility. Photo: Petra Dorenstouter.

AMSTERDAM.- As of today, a touchable scale model of the museum building is available at the entrance to the Van Gogh Museum. The model, which includes all floors and walking routes, is designed to help make a visit to the museum easier for everyone, but especially for blind and partially-sighted visitors. Visitors can now use the 3D-printed model (made by Local Makers) literally to feel their way around the museum building and find their bearings during their visit. The model is unique: the Van Gogh Museum is the first museum in the Netherlands to introduce a detailed touchable scale model of both the inside and outside of the building. Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Van Gogh Museum: ‘Thanks to the support and expertise of the Bartiméus Fonds and Stichting Accessibility, we have made another step in improving accessibility to the Van Gogh Museum. We hope to make further improvements in the years ahead, in order to offer all of our visitors an unforgettable museum experience’.

Help with wayfinding

The life and work of Vincent van Gogh appeals to those with a visual impairment as much as the many other visitors who find their way to the museum. The Van Gogh Museum offers an interactive programme for the visually impaired (Feeling Van Gogh). The new touchable scale model helps visitors grasp the museum’s layout and what each floor has to offer, during a guided or independent visit. The scale model is located in the Van Gogh Museum’s Entrance Hall, immediately offering visitors the opportunity to get their bearings and navigate through the building. By feeling the model, blind and partially-sighted visitors can experience the architecture and the layout of the Van Gogh Museum buildings. The miniature versions of the buildings, for example, reveal the remarkable staircase in the main building – designed by Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973.

Mirjam Eikelenboom, Educator at the Van Gogh Museum: ‘The touchable scale model is specifically designed for visitors with various visual impairments, but will also assist many of our other visitors during their visit. It is vital that blind and partially-sighted visitors also feel welcome at our museum. Experiencing art is about more than simply seeing it’.

Experience the entire building

The scale model has two elements: a miniature version of the exterior of the Van Gogh Museum complex (the Entrance Hall on Museumplein, the Exhibition Wing and the main building) and an open model of all of the museum’s floors. For example, this can show visitors where the lifts are located. The museum will continue to develop the model and accessibility in general. Touchable floor plans that will be installed next to the lift entrances on each floor of the permanent collection are also being developed. The floor plans offer detailed information about the walking routes and what is on display on each floor. Touchable floor plans will also be produced for temporary exhibitions.

Collaboration with the target group

The Van Gogh Museum is keen to involve a target group in its aim to become a more accessible museum. With the assistance of the Bartiméus Fonds, the museum benefited from valuable collaboration with numerous (potential) blind and partially-sighted visitors when developing the scale model. The museum worked with them to design the current touchable model, assisted by various focus groups, test sessions and the expertise of Stichting Accessibility (part of Bartiméus).

Séverine Kas, Consultant at Stichting Accessibility: ‘It was a special experience to be involved with this project. Wayfinding can often be difficult at museums, and can be a hindrance to blind and partially-sighted visitors. The new touchable scale models allow visitors to use both hands to gain an overview and understand the buildings, while allowing sighted visitors to see how the museum is laid out at a glance. The model encourages discovery’.

The touchable scale model is will be located in the Entrance Hall from tomorrow (25 September 2021) for use by all visitors. More information about the Van Gogh Museum’s initiatives to improve accessibility, including sign language guided tours and special days for elderly visitors, is available on the website.

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