Introduction by Bernard K. Means, Virtual Curation Laboratory, project director
Yesterday, I had a short piece published in a special issue of the online Museum Practice devoted to 3D technology. In this piece, I talk some about virtual curation, particularly different reactions to digital models of artifacts and printed replicas. Different audiences have quite varying needs and expectations, as do those who are presenting these audiences with a virtual or tangible version of the past. Ultimately, we are talking about making the ages accessible to people, particularly those who might not readily have access for one reason or another. The majority of this particular blog I turn over to Robert Jaquiss, who gives his perspective on the importance of virtual curation for the blind.
The Importance of Virtual Curation for the Blind
by Robert Jaquiss
This article discusses the importance of virtual curation for the blind. The author has been totally blind since birth. No known formal study of this subject has been undertaken, therefore the opinions and observations contained in this article are anecdotal.
I have been blind from birth. My parents were teachers and they did their best to provide me an education. From primary school to the present, I have had an interest in history and archaeology. When my family traveled, my parents often stopped at historical sites so I could look at whatever there was to see. Readers should understand that persons who are blind intend and use the words look and see to describe experiences. We “look,” at an object by actually feeling it. There were certainly many glass cases, but usually a few items could be touched. Rangers at national parks and monuments often let me slip under a rope to feel an object, or removed items from their displays for me to touch. In this way I was able to understand the subject matter. As a result of my experiences, I was willing to visit museums in hopes that I might see some of the exhibits. It has been my experience that many people who are blind avoid museums. Glass cases, barriers and a lack of signage make visiting museums a boring experience. Persons who are blind cannot easily get to sites that are not accessible by public transit. They must instead rely on family, friends or possibly a tour operator in order to visit a site.
The practice of Virtual Curation makes it possible to share 3d images of artifacts. An artifact may be viewed by anyone with the appropriate computer hardware and software. From the point of view of this author, Virtual Curation has a major benefit. 3d images can be printed with a 3d printer producing a touchable 3d model. Such models can be touched by the blind allowing those who are blind to more fully appreciate the subject matter. Using 3d models also will help a museum or historical site comply with the ADA and Section 508.
If a museum has materials that can be touched by those who are blind, organizations serving the blind should be notified. In the U.S., the two major consumer organizations are the American Council for the Blind (ACB) http://www.acb.org and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) http://www.nfb.org.