Culture without borders: the capital's museums to adapt for blind and weak-eyed people

December 10, 2021
Social sector

Providing access to cultural heritage for all citizens without exception is an important task of many Moscow museums. Thanks to the adaptation of museum spaces, people with eyesight can get acquainted with exhibitions and participate in educational projects equally with other visitors.

Touching knowledge with own hands

Both weak-eyed and blind people can visit the State Darwin Museum for free, including with an escort or a guide dog (provided that it has a harness on and with identification marks, and the owner has appropriate documents).

The museum permanent exhibition presents interactive exhibits available for tactile viewing. Explanatory inscriptions to them are made in Braille script. Adapted excursions are conducted by trained specialists. In addition, the museum’s certified audio descriptive commentator gives special explanations for weak-eyed and blind people.

"For over 100 years, the State Darwin Museum is accessible for people who are blind, have low vision and are deafblind. Back in the twenties of the last century, the founder and first director of the museum, Alexander Kots, was taking blind visitors to excursions. Today, the museum is actively developing the inclusions and does instructional research in this field. The main exhibition and interactive zones are available to guests with visual perception peculiarities," says Tatiana Kubasova, Deputy Director for Research at the State Darwin Museum.

The 2014 made a start to the interactive educational center “Know Yourself — Know the World”, equipped with assistive devices for tactile viewing, in the main building of the museum. The centre’s name speaks for itself: guests find out interactively how a human being and the environment are arranged. For example, here you can measure your pulse and compare it with that of different birds and animals. In addition, using bronze models made by the best animal sculptors you can study small animals and insects — toad, grasshopper, lizard and others.

Since 2015, the museum’s program “The World in Hands” is accessible for people with impaired vision and those totally blind, including deafblind. The program includes a cycle of specialized excursions and classes with audio descriptive commentary. Participants discover the world around them, get acquainted with live representatives of flora and fauna, find out about the laws of nature and learn to distinguish between species of living organisms. The exhibition is complemented by tactile viewing of specially selected exhibits in the training aids room. These include stuffed birds and animals, feathers and animal skins, mollusk shells and fossilized remains of ancient organisms.

The museum holds annual exhibitions of creative works by authors with disabilities, including blind people. Thematic events regularly take place too, for example, dedicated to the White Cane Day.

"Positive emotions and direct communication destroy internal barriers and get people involved in the community. Museums, as the most democratic platforms, give every visitor an opportunity to gain access to cultural heritage, meet interesting people and find their way to self-realization (for instance, decide on a future profession or share skills as a volunteer at an event). Some people need special conditions during their lifetime (due to age or temporary poor health). Our museum tries to provide such conditions and become accessible to everyone," Tatiana Kubasova says.

Inclusion as the norm

A friendly environment for everyone, including weak-eyed and blind visitors, is also created in the Tsaritsyno State Open-Air Museum. Here, guests with visual perception peculiarities can visit special excursions and participate in interactive programs. The Braille relief map and an album of symbols help them navigate independently in the territory of the museum. If necessary, they can be accompanied by administrators on duty.

According to Elizaveta Fokina, General Director of the Tsaritsyno Open-Air Museum, the inclusion (i. e, a barrier-free environment and equal opportunities for all guests) is not just the good form or an act of goodwill, but rather the standard in many modern museums.


This year, the Museum developed a program for blind and weak-eyed people dedicated to the 4th Textile and Contemporary Tapestry Triennial "What connects us". Participants get acquainted with modern tapestries and create art objects with their own hands. Creative classes are arranged also for children.

"Our global task is to build a broad inclusion, to form a museum for everyone and with everyone. This task implies a lot of work and, most importantly, an assessment of its results. The assessment cannot be a one-time process, and the inclusion cannot be done once and for all. For example, we are planning to equip our permanent exhibitions with their tactile copies" Elizaveta Fokina notes.


The broad inclusion implies employment too. People with disabilities work in Tsaritsyno, and methodologist Alexander Novikov, blind himself, helps adapt the space for blind and weak-eyed people. Now, as an expert, he participates in the “Walking in the Park” project, supported by the Open-Air Museum together with the State Museum — N. A. Ostrovsky Cultural Center “Integration”, and the Moscow City organization of the All Russia Association of the Blind within the framework of the “Act without Barriers” program.


He is confident that the project will help to make many of the city's park spaces more accessible, safe and comfortable for blind people.


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