Page C1.1 . 20 June 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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A Museum for Everyone

by Coco Raynes

The National Museum of Colombia houses a fragile and priceless archeological collection, like many historical museums around the world. How can such collections be made accessible to those whose primary mode of understanding is by touch and sound?

The National Museum of Colombia, under the direction of Elvira Cuervo de Jaramillo, is housed in a former penitentiary built in 1874, now a historic monument. The collections, which span from the pre-Colombian era through the Spanish Conquest to contemporary art, are displayed throughout two floors and cannot be touched.

Our design firm, known for its work with navigation aids for the visually impaired, was hired by the Colombian Ministry of Culture to create a master plan for an inclusive educational program. Our goal was to address all visitors, including children, those using wheelchairs, the visually impaired, and the illiterate.

Enhancing the Museum's Navigability

The new museum graphics had to complement the existing and blend with the Spanish Colonial architecture. Lecterns with adapted heights were fit within the existing archways of the archeological galleries.

We created a tactile and audio itinerary that allows for an autonomous visit within the general collection, highlighting typical examples of each period. Audio commentaries presenting the pieces in their historical context are the common denominator for sighted and non-sighted visitors.

In the museum lobby, a main directory resting on a console introduces the tactile itinerary on the slanted glass surface. At the entrance of each gallery, maps with raised columns, walls, and paths further guide visitors to the exhibits.



ArchWeek Photo

Artifact descriptions are etched in Braille into glass lecterns in the National Museum of Colombia, and photosensor-activated handrails trigger audio narrations.
Photo: Coco Raynes

ArchWeek Photo

In the museum lobby, guide maps are accessible to those with low or no vision.
Photo: Coco Raynes


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