Art for the Blind access tour at Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum

Bringing art to life for blind museum visitors

One of Rome’s most prestigious public museums is offering a pioneering experience for blind visitors that perfectly demonstrates the possibilities of combining the latest technology with the greatest art.

Co-created by Antenna International and partially sighted consultants from Italian tech specialists Tooteko, the Art for the Blind access tour at Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum allows blind and partially sighted visitors to interact with the museum’s 2,000-year-old Ara Pacis Augustae and other ancient treasures in truly innovative ways.

Positioning technology allows independent exploration, while multisensory content, such as evocative audio descriptions and tactile elements, bring exhibits to life like never before.

What technology does it use?

The Art for the Blind tour uses the latest in smart, wearable rings, portable technology, and 3-D printing. Software is also key: iPad minis feature an app specially designed for visually impaired users.

How does it work?

At the start of the tour, blind and partially sighted people receive three items:

  1. A high-tech, smart, wearable ring
  2. An A4, 3D thermoform map
  3. An iPad mini attached to headphones

As they explore the museum, users can touch the ring to tags on exhibits in six main areas of the museum. This wirelessly connects their iPad to sensors at the base of works, which then triggers a unique experience of the exhibit and artwork.

For instance, users have the opportunity to feel details of the famous floral frieze of the Ara Pacis. And at the busts of Augustus’s family, visitors can touch the heads and each sculpture ”speaks” to them in character.

 

 

How have we made sure it meets the needs of our audience?

The multisensory tour and audio guide descriptions were co-created with the help of two key consultants at Tooteko. Anna Spina is partially sighted and Deborah Tramentozzi is blind and an expert on issues affecting blind people. Their insights were fundamental in making the tour and the technology both user-friendly and immersive.

Fabio D’Agnano, CTO at Tooteko comments:

To us, it was important to combine touch and hearing and allow an independent and rich experience for the visually impaired. We wanted to add real innovation into museum accessibility, and the historic Museo dell’Ara Pacis was the perfect environment for it.

Paola Spataro, Head of Digital Media, Italy for Antenna International adds:

Technological advances, both big and small, are turning museum tours across the world into unforgettable experiences. The work we’ve done in Rome is a great example of what can be achieved. There are so many innovations out there which can enrich and enliven what museums are creating, and I’m excited to see where even the next twelve months will take the industry.

 

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