Lithuania - Breaking the ‘no touching’ rule

20 years ago the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Handicapped (LASS) launched the programme Experience art through your senses.

It was a very challenging task to break the traditional museum experience of keeping objects behind glass. The first attempts to convince museums to let blind people touch certain items were a total fiasco. For museum guards tactile examination of pieces of art was beyond understanding. Luckily, the idea of bringing art closer to visually impaired persons was supported by the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled under the Ministry of social security and Labour (DADMSSL).

In the year 2000, in cooperation with the National Gallery of Art, LASS implemented the first international project Experience art through your senses. The tactile exhibition ‘From Lespug‘s Venus to Rodin‘s Thinker’ was brought from France. The second exhibition ‘To feel nature together with Cezanne’, produced by the association ‘Artens’ was exposed in the Lithuanian National museum. Alongside the exhibition, a workshop for museum workers, art teachers and artists took place. And it was a breakthrough!

The experience gained from our foreign partners was used to good effect and the fourth exhibition of the programme Exploring Art through our senses introduced the art of one of the most prominent Lithuanian artists. This time, the exhibition presented the tactile works created and based on Zodiac, the twelve-painting cycle of M.K. Ciurlionis. Carved, moulded and cast objects, which can be touched help the blind to better understand the paintings of M.K. Ciurlionis, the most popular and famous Lithuanian painter and composer.

The period 2009 – 2019 saw many tactile expositions. Those first expositions had a positive and multiplying effect and nowadays the initiatives come from museums themselves. The best proof is the most recent educational programme in the museum in Trakai Island Castle, offering various history exhibits for the visually impaired. It is obvious that with the financial support from DADMSSL and LASS, the art world is opening for the blind.