Author: Aubrey Minshew, Museum Specialist, Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye®
The Museum of the Eye is fundraising for 3D-printed tactile images. With these displays, we can create impactful and autonomous experiences for our visitors who are blind. You can help us get there.
The museum’s mission is to educate about the science of sight, and we are constantly trying to evolve our gallery space to make that mission more accessible to our visitors. As discussed in previous blog posts, we try to convey all our messaging in the three primary learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
While we can accommodate many variations in learning styles, the museum is still very much a visual medium – which doesn’t leave a lot of learning space for our visitors with low vision or who are blind.
According to Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation for the Blind, “While sight is not a prerequisite for success, equal access to information is. The next frontier in achieving this goal is access to images, not merely words describing them.”
Our Tactile Images Project
That’s why the museum is working with Tactile Images to create a series of new installations with audio and kinesthetic or touch-based experiences for visitors who have visual difficulties.
Tactile Images is a company that creates custom 3D-rendered images equipped with touch-activated sensors, allowing visitors to both feel the contours and textures of a piece while activating audio content as they run their fingers over the sensors. By combining both a kinesthetic and audio experience, these 3D images create an experience for visitors with low vision that is both informative and, crucially, autonomous.
A tactile image of “The Tank,” a photograph by John Olson. (Courtesy of Tactile Images)
As an example, the image above is a 3D tactile rendering of a photograph called “The Tank,” which shows wounded soldiers evacuating from the Battle of Hue during the Vietnam War (1968). In this installation, visitors can use their hands to feel the contours of the tank’s treads and the injured men on top of the tank. As they run their hands over the individual soldiers, they activate sensors that play recorded interviews with the men in the image. This installation allows visitors to access a specific moment in history without needing an interpreter.
Tactile image of drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci. (Courtesy of Tactile Images)
This innovative exhibit design isn’t just for historical images. It can be used to convey the intricacies of paintings and drawings or even images from the Hubble Space Telescope. If they can convey something as large as the vastness of space, imagine the impact of being able to feel and experience the intricate contours of retinal cells or the smooth exterior of ocular prosthetics. Visitors could feel the small, sharp edge of a couching needle while also hearing about ancient surgical techniques.
A visitor touches a 3D image of King Tut’s sarcophagus at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.(Photography ©️ HMNS / Photographer: Mike Rathke)
How to Get Involved
We are working with Tactile Images on designs, and you can get involved in this exciting project. The more of these groundbreaking installations that we can develop, the more seamlessly we can ingrate a self-guided experience for our blind visitors into our current exhibition. We are excited to see, hear and feel all of the possibilities!
Does this sound like something you’d like to be involved in? Reach out to the American Academy of Ophthalmology Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org about donation and sponsorship opportunities. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and donations are fully tax-deductible.
See more examples of 3D tactile images and read impact testimonials on the Tactile Images website.