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One of the first signs visitors encounter at most museums is, "Please do not touch the exhibits." However at the new "Hoy toca el Prado" (Come touch the Prado) exhibition at Madrid's Museo Nacional Del Prado, the officials don't just encourage the habit, they insist upon it. That's because this unique art display has been specially created to enable visually impaired patrons to experience the joy of the works of some of the world's most famous artists, just like non-disabled people can.
Hoy toca el Prado, which is open to visitors until June 28th, features replicas of six collection masterpieces. Among them is Diego Velazquez's "Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest," Francisco Goya's "The Parasol" and even a reproduction of the world's best-known work of art, "The Mona Lisa!"
The three-dimensional masterpieces are the brainchild of Estudios Durero, a graphics art organization in Bilbao, Spain. The creators began by taking high-resolution images of the original works. They then used a special ink to add different 3-D textures to the paintings. This allows blind visitors to feel features like hair, skin, cloaks, etc. so that they can create a visual image of what the art looks like in their minds.
Since the blind can perceive some hues, equal emphasis was given to the colors in the paintings. Braille text etched on the wall next to each exhibit allows visitors to get more information about the picture, while an audio guide completes the incredible journey! Blind patrons are not the only ones that can enjoy the exhibits. Special opaque masks are available for sighted visitors who wish to experience the sensation of 'seeing' a painting through touch.
Not surprisingly, the exhibition has been an enormous success. As one visually impaired visitor succinctly puts it, "For us, the sense of sight is the sense of touch. My view is to touch, and usually I can’t see the paintings others see in a museum – someone would have to explain them to me. But in this exhibit, I have the chance to see it with my hands.”
Though there are a few other museums that have special exhibits for the blind, the Museo Nacional Del Prado is the world's first major museum to create one with versions of their most famous masterpieces. As to why it has taken so long for the 200-year-old institution to come up with this brilliant concept? Fernando Pérez, the museum's curator, says it is not due to lack of interest, but a lack of resources. Perez explains, “There are now new technologies to provide solutions that were previously not possible, such as the paints in relief, three-dimensional impressions, and apps." Now that they have it all figured out, the officials plan to continue offering similar exhibitions in the future.
This is not the first time the museum has gone the extra mile to make the experience special for everyone. Their past endeavors include a special exhibit for the deaf and also ones for visitors who have Alzheimer's and autism.
Resources: euronews.com, museo nacional del prado,acidcow.com