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Final Presentation of ARCHES project in Madrid

Final Presentation of ARCHES project in Madrid

Six museums, four tech companies and two universities have come together in an ambitious EU-funded research project intended to make art accessible for all. State-of-the-art tactile reliefs made with the latest 3D modelling techniques, barrier-free apps and games for smartphones and tablets, together with sign-language avatars are the cutting-edge technologies proposed by the Arches Team. They are showcased at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, in Madrid, on 7 November. The technologies have been co-designed and tested by more than 200 disabled people in Spain, Austria and the UK.

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Madrid´s Thyssen-Bornemisza are part of this consortium, which has teamed up with people with visual impairments and people with hearing impairments, as well as people with learning disabilities for three years. The work has been carried out within the framework of a €3.8 million research project financially supported by the EU. The initiative was intended to anchor accessibility in the art world and make museums more inclusive spaces. The project is truly unique as it combines inter­national collaboration and participatory research methodology with the development of technology intended to facilitate accessibility for all museum visitors. The team has used a multi-sensory approach to support all people to better experience the great artworks of famous painters, such as Edward Hopper, Frans Hals, and Pieter Brueghel. From the outset the research team realised that people’s needs do not neatly fit into traditional categories, such as blind, deaf or learning difficulties. So their focus has been upon the tools people can use, their access preferences, such as audio-description, sign-language, simplified information, or step-free access. The project has developed tactile reliefs allowing museum visitors to touch masterpieces’ replicas placed by the original art work. A relief printer prototype has been filed for patents. An innovative gesture-controlled multimedia guide is also proposed. The guide reacts to the movement of hands and expands the possibilities of interaction with the artwork by providing information on and around the exhibit – as an audio file, as easy read text, or through sign-language clips. Animations and sound effects round off the offer and are especially child-friendly.

COPRIX media company, one of the ARCHES project participant, has developed accessible and barrier-free games, using audio description, sign language videos that can be used inside and outside the museum.

The final event of the project was held on November 7 in Madrid, within the framework of a day of talks and round tables at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum. More than 20 members of the research groups presented the methodology and results, together with the museum educators and the technological companies. Among the other members, COPRIX media presented the games we developed.

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