Although the museum is there for everyone, not everyone can easily find their way around. For the blind and visually impaired, a visit to a museum can be pretty challenging. To make the museum accessible to this target audience, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has worked in collaboration with Mikxs on developing Unseen Boijmans. The museum aims to remove the barriers that stand in the way of them visiting an art museum and offer them an optimum art experience. A number of world-famous artworks from the permanent collection have been ‘enriched’ especially for this programme, the emphasis being placed on senses other than sight, so this audience can experience the works too. Stories are told, artworks are described, tactile drawings and materials are felt, music is listened to and fragrances are smelled.
A number of tour guides were given intensive training especially for this programme. For example, they became acquainted with the wide range of eye disorders, not only by being told about them, but also by experiencing their effects for themselves. Using specially adapted goggles, a number of disorders could be simulated so the guides could experience what it is like to move around the museum with impaired vision. They also worked with tactile drawings, which consist of slightly elevated lines so they can be felt. How do you ‘read’ the drawings, and how can they be of help during the guided tour? An important part of the training consisted of audio description; a technique used to describe an image as objectively and in as structured a way as possible for someone with reduced or no vision.
A number of volunteers were also trained to provide the guides with additional support in taking the participants around the museum.
Unseen Boijmans is held every third Sunday in the month from 3.00 pm to 4.30 pm. The guided tours take the participants along two or three of the collection’s highlights. You can also book a private tour for your group at a specific time.
At the end of May 2019, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen closed its doors due to a major renovation set to last number of years, so the museum looked into the possibility of exhibiting Unseen Boijmans elsewhere: Boijmans and a number of museums in and around Rotterdam have joined forces so parts of the collection can be displayed at these temporary ‘homes’.