Under the direction of the Austrian Research Centre VRVis, six museums, two technology companies, two universities and a cultural mediator came together to find new ways for inclusion in art and cultural mediation. The results are tactile reliefs, apps, games and sign language avatars, which will be presented at the closing event on November 7, 2019 at the renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.
ARCHES stands for Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems and was initiated in 2017 as an EU project. For the past three years, the Horizon 2020 project, coordinated by the Vienna research institute VRVis, has been dedicated to the question of how technology can be used to make works of art more accessible to people with visual, hearing and cognitive impairments. This is a field of research that VRVis has been dealing with since its foundation 20 years ago. "With methods of visual computing we can make things visible - this is not limited to the sense of sight. In order to develop new ways of perceiving paintings and works of art, we have developed entirely new solutions - including a patented method for the sustainable printing of tactile reliefs on reusable materials," explains Gerd Hesina, Managing Director of VRVis. Tactile reliefs of famous paintings complement the experience of the original artwork with the dimension of the sense of touch: real art to touch. In order to further expand the application possibilities of these tactile reliefs, a gesture-controlled multimedia guide was also developed, which further expands the interaction frame with the artwork by playing information in sign language, as an audio file or in light language at the tip of a finger.
This unique EU project was characterised by the interdisciplinary and Europe-wide cooperation of the various institutions: Together with VRVis, six of the most important European museums (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Victoria & Albert Museum, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, The Wallace Collection, Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias), two other technology companies (Signtime, Coprix), a cultural mediator (Artecontacto) and two universities (University of Bath, Open University) took part in the EU project. More than 200 people with disabilities were also involved, who could actively participate as participative researchers. The project showed how technology potential can be exploited by combining science, art and technology. The result is a multitude of solutions and tools that are now available to museums. In addition to the tactile reliefs and the multimedia guide, the ARCHES project developed an app that guides visitors through the museum barrier-free and also features an avatar that communicates in sign language. In addition, there are now also training instructions for museum staff to prepare them for working with people with special needs.
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