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Museum Making Tours More Accessible

Visitor touches exhibit piece
Photo: Harvard Semitic Museum

The Harvard Semitic Museum is offering Touch Tours for visitors with vision disabilities. If you’ve never experienced a touch tour, it’s about time you do. Go ahead and make the reservation.

Emily Axelsen 23, is leading her first Touch Tour, a beta-test of the new free program for adults with vision disabilities.

“We’re in a rectangular room with 12 resin slabs on the walls,” Axelsen begins to describe “From Stone to Silicone.”

She explains that the slabs are precise copies of 3,000-year-old original stone carvings that once adorned the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, near modern-day Mosul in Iraq. Axelsen’s visitors may touch the panels, and handle several models and a 3D-printed replica of the Ashurnasirpal statue, rather than the original.

Axelsen is an experienced guide, having led New-York Historical Society groups for three summers, but she has never given tours for people who are blinduntil now.

“Creating tours for visitors with vision disabilities benefits the growing population of elders and fits our mission to make the museums accessible to a widely diverse audience. Practicing these accommodations in one exhibit can help us get better at designing our next projects with this audience in mind.” said Polly Hubbard, director of education for the Harvard Semitic Museum.

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