Tactual Museum of Athens
Posted on: 12 June 2023 by Dr. Guendalina Daniela Maria Taietti in 2023 posts
Since International Museum Day (18 May) has just passed, I am taking the opportunity to talk about my visit to the Tactual Museum of Athens in September 2022.
Back then I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Roukoutaki, the vice-president of the Tactual Museum of Athens. Mrs. Roukoutaki kindly agreed to give me an introduction about the Museum and the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece (Φάρος Τυφλών), an institution that has helped visually-impaired people living in Greece and Greek expatriates since 1946, providing them with social-supportive services, professional rehabilitation, and equal opportunities.
The Museum and its background
The Tactual Museum of Athens was founded by the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece in 1984 and is one of the few museums of this kind in the world (like the Homer Tactile Museum in Ancona or the Museo Tiflologico in Madrid). The Museum hosts exact replicas of famous ancient Greek works of art, such as statues, vessels, sculptures and useful artifacts dating back to the Cycladic, Minoan, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The original objects are on display in different museums in Greece and abroad, and they all become easily accessible here in one place. Among these artifacts, there are the famous statue of the Aphrodite of Milos, Praxiteles’ Hermes, the Artemision Zeus (or Poseidon), the Auriga of Delphoi, and models of the Acropolis and of the Theatre of Dionysus (which is situated on the south slope of the Acropolis).
Moreover, the Museum also hosts sculptures of the blind Cretan artist Petros Roukoutakis (1953-2015), as well as artworks created by visually-impaired people who participate in the Ceramics and Sculpture workshop of the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece.
The Tactual Museum was created to give people with severe eye conditions and visual impairments the chance to learn about, and to experience sensorially, the beauty of Hellenic heritage. By touching the objects with their hands and guided by the well-prepared staff of the museum (and/or the audio-guides in Greek and English), the visually impaired visitor can feel famous Greek works of art which are showcased in other museums in Greece, like the National Archaeological museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis, Delphi, and Olympia, but also abroad. However, it is worth mentioning that visually-impaired people are not the only audience of the Tactile Museum: as a matter of fact, since 2004 when it first opened to the wider public, its main aim has been to raise awareness about disabilities in general, with a focus on vision-related problems and on the life-challenges of a blind person. The members of staff also run several educational programmes in which the visitors and children from primary and high-school can learn how to help visually-impaired people and even how to write in Braille system!
In 2021 the Tactual Museum launched an online educational programme and a Museum Kit, not only to overcome the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, but also to reach the students based in remote areas of Greece. For adults working in education or interested in helping people affected by vision loss, the Museum has started to offer online training seminars.
The Tactual Museum is located in Kallithea (Athens), in the historic building of the Lighthouse for the Blind in Greece, and it is also accessible to people with mobility and other disabilities, making it the champion of diversity and inclusivity.
As a partially-sighted Classicist, I was in awe when I entered the Tactile Museum: not only did all the members of staff know exactly how to approach a visually-impaired person, but also every inch of the museum was tailored to my needs. Before starting my personal tour in the museum, the guide kindly asked me to take off my rings to ‘better feel’ the objects in display, i.e. to ‘see them better’ with my bare hands. The feeling was just pure magic: guided by my guide’s voice, my hands could literally see what my eyes couldn’t; I rejoiced so much to ‘see/feel’ all the statues’ details, that at some point I even closed my eyes, as I did not want my little, blurred vision to be of obstacle!
I highly recommend a visit to the Tactual Museum; my husband enjoyed it too, as the replicas are beautifully done. Moreover, after this visit he also felt that he could understand something more about me and my way of perceiving the world, which is an incredible gain!