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National Museum to open exhibition room for visually handicapped

National Museum to open exhibition room for visually handicapped

Posted July. 24, 2023 07:48,   

Updated July. 24, 2023 07:48


The National Museum of Korea is building a 157.54-square-meter ‘Five Senses’ exhibition room with the goal of opening it in September. By placing two national treasures, the Bangasayusang (Contemplative Bodhisattva) statues, side by side, the museum is creating a separate room for the visually handicapped to experience the ‘Room of Contemplation,’ which has been visited by about one million people since its opening in November 2021. The room has no warning signs reading “Do not touch the treasure.” Instead of real national treasures, 30 models of Buddhist statues, including two Bangasayusang statues reproduced in their original size and materials and 16 miniatures, have been placed so that the visually impaired could touch and feel them as they like without reservation. The exhibit is scented with specially made incense to create the effect of being in nature.

This is the first time a national museum has set up a permanent exhibition room for the visually impaired. The National Museum of Korea has selected 30 visually impaired people, including Mr. Lee, as advisors and previewers to design the space together. On this day, Mr. Lee made a sharp assessment. "It's good to have a curator or guide to guide you through the experience, but in the end, when it comes to contemplating you have to do yourself, not someone else," he said. "I wish there was a system in place for blind people to enjoy the museum alone." The museum agreed with Lee and decided to prepare an audio guide that includes directions to the exhibit and explanations of the artifacts so that the visually impaired can experience it without a guide’s help.

"I was shocked to hear that 'museums are the least favored field trip destination for visually impaired students,'" said Jang Eun-jeong, head of the education division at the National Museum of Korea, who designed the Five Sense exhibition room. Among students at schools for the blind, museums are ranked as one of the three strongly avoided places, along with art galleries and aquariums. The 'Room of Contemplation' exhibition was also motivated by the realization that the room had been a meaningless space for blind people.