As a blind tourist I’m generally not a fan of museums and art galleries. Usually exhibits are sealed away from visitors and touching is simply not an option… which is a problem for those of us who see with the sense of touch. My husband is really good about describing things to make the experience as inclusive as possible for me, but his ability to do that is dependent on how much knowledge/context he has on what we’re seeing.
So I was a little dubious about visiting the National Archeological Museum on one rainy day in Athens. And for a while it looked like my fears would be realized – until we were told about the tactile tour the museum offers for visually impaired visitors.
One of the guides accompanied us along with a list of statues and frieze’s that I was allowed… or rather… encouraged to investigate using the sense of touch. In fact, I had two guides – Craig giving me one description as he would usually do, and the guide giving me another.
I don’t think I have the words to truly explain what it meant to me to be able to get so up close and personal with the various exhibits from that list – a few of them in rooms that weren’t even open to the public. What I can tell you is that experiencing exhibits by touch gave me an intense sense of the tangibility of history
On one occasion the guide said I should try and guess what the statue in front of me was. It was around the size and shape of Fiji – even the tail was much like hers – but I was pretty sure that Labradors weren’t common in ancient Greece so continued looking for clues. Then I discovered the “dog” had a mane and all was revealed – what was in front of me was a statue of a lion.
In total I got to experience 20 different statues and friezes ranging from the 5th century BCE. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced ancient Greece in quite that way- it was amazing!
Full respect to the National Archeological Museum in Athens for giving me a tactile glimpse into the ancient world in a way I’ve never had before. I’d highly recommend any blind or visually impaired travellers who happen to find themselves in Athens take advantage of this amazing experience.