Following the International Conference “Art within reach: achieving a barrier-free educational access to our Cultural Heritage”, which was jointly organized by the State Tactile Omero Museum, Ancona and the “Anteros” Tactile Museum of ancient and modern painting, of the Francesco Cavazza Institute for the Blind, Bologna, and held at Portonovo, Ancona on 21, 22 and 23 October 2004, the participants, from eight countries in three continents, unanimously approved the following resolution:
present day society increasingly tends to concentrate on the visual aspects of reality, to the point of going beyond the practical uses of visual images to actually identifying reality with them.
As this approach to reality becomes ever more exclusive, it tends to weaken awareness of the solid reality and complexity of the world, of the means of communication relating to it and that people generally have five senses for perceiving and enjoying reality.
The participants highlighted the importance of rediscovering all the possibilies offered by the five senses and, in particular, by touch. They also stressed the extraordinary perceptive and aesthetic potential inherent in touch. This observation, which is true for everyone, is of primary importance for the blind who are forced to use the sense of touch as their primary means of contact with the outside world.
We therefore ask the political and administrative authorities, the staffs of museums and schools, and cultural and communcations agencies to address the following issues, which we consider to be of top priority:
1. that the educative process take due note of the importance of educating the senses, particularly touch, in the student’s experience of reality, and so as to gain a richer knowledge of the artistic heritage.
2. that the media be aware that there is also a visually-handicapped public among their users and that they therefore, as far as possible, provide adequate verbal descriptions of the images shown.
3. that the cultural heritage be accessible to every citizen and that issues regarding the preservation of exhibits be balanced against the right to enjoy them.
4. that, in particular, museums abandon their generalized, absolute prejudice against touching exhibits and that they apply the ban only to safeguard those exhibits whose physical survival would be compromised by handling.
5. that the relevant authorities undertake to draw up an official certificate of standards of accessibility to both public and private museums. 6. that schools, as principal agents of education, pay sufficient attention to the importance of art appreciation in non sighted pupils’ education and as a means to their cultural and social integration. To that end, we would would strongly suggest more specialized training for teachers and a greater collaboration between schools and museums.
7. That the two fundamental means of enabling integration for every type of public, that is art education for all and equal social opportunities, be at the top of any list of national and European political objectives.
To achieve these general aims, the Conference participants identified some common objectives which they intend to pursue together, by increasing awareness of these issues among the authorities in their own countries and in Europe: 1. To work towards the creation of inter-institutional networks at a European level, taking full advantage of new technology, with the aim of increasing public awareness and promoting distance learning. 2. To identify professional figures who would be suitable as educational assistance and mediation; to recognize the advantages of having non-sighted members of staff to welcome and help visitors.3. To create specialized training for these employees; to create tactile pathways through the museums and provide the individual works of art with labels clearly explaining the level of tactile exploration permitted; to create homogeneous criteria for producing casts, replicas, copies or digital reproductions of original works.
Ancona 23 October 2004