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Presentation of the Inclusive Project “Art in Feelings: Antiquity”

Published 18 October 2022

On 10 October 2022, a new inclusive project – “Art in Feelings: Antiquity” – was presented in the Hermitage. For the first time on a permanent basis, tactile copies will be placed in the museum halls alongside the exhibits themselves.

The initiative is aimed primarily at the blind and partially sighted, but the new project will allow any visitor to get acquainted with the Hermitage’s collections in a new way. The first phase of this long-term programme to create an accessible environment in the museum for visitors with a variety of special needs is being implemented with the support of Sberbank.

Participating in the formal ceremony were Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage; Natalia Gennadyevna Gordeyeva, advisor to the chairman of the North-Western Bank of Sberbank; Iya Yevgenyevna Rostomashvili, senior lecturer in the Department of Clinical Psychology at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Psychology and Social Work; Irina Viktorovna Nikulina, a researcher in the museum’s Department of Classical Antiquity and curator of the project; Tatiana Dmitriyevna Vainshtein, Artistic Director of the Part Academy for the Performing Arts; and the sculptors Yulia Vasilyevna Andriyevich and Marat Faizovich Batulin.

Mikhail Piotrovsky gave a welcome speech to the gathering: “In the Hermitage we have a diverse, rich programme for the inclusive aspect of museum life – that is an expansion of the opportunities to tell about art for all categories of guests and friends. In the case of today’s project, it is aimed at people with impaired vision, but it is the dream of every person when going around the museum to touch an exhibit. We are providing that opportunity today.”

“We are present not just at the opening of an exhibition. Today we are making art more accessible,” Natalia Gordeyeva stressed. “This display will allow everyone to get in touch quite literally with the Hermitage’s masterpieces from Antiquity. We have a respectful regard for projects of this kind and, like the Hermitage, a leader in innovations, we are doing all we can to advance inclusion.”

As consultant to the project, Iya Rostomashvili noted the scale of the event and of the preparations carried out by the State Hermitage and its departments: “Nowadays people often employ such a concept as universal design in inclusive practices. These exhibits can be touched and felt not only by blind people, but also by visitors with impaired vision, people in wheelchairs, indeed anyone who wishes, because tactile sensations represent an important component of human experience.”

Under the project, tactile copies of six museum objects have been produced. First and foremost, these are masterpieces from the Hermitage’s collections of classical antiquities – the famous Gonzaga Cameo, the largest cameo from the Ancient World; a sculptural group depicting Hercules battling with the lion; a bust of the Ancient Greek goddess Athena; a statue of the god Serapis and a sculpture of a young ram. A further adornment of the project comes in the form of 3D models of the Atlantes from the portico of the New Hermitage building, which hark back to well-known characters from Greek mythology and have becomes one of the symbols of the museum.

The tactile copies were created using digital modelling technology and fabricated on 3D printers. They completely reproduce all the sculptural characteristics of the original but differ in colour and size. The tactile models have been installed in the museum halls on granite pedestals, which made it possible to incorporate them organically into the historic interiors housing the permanent display of the art of the Ancient World.

The launch of the project is being marked by the inclusive festival “Art in Feelings: Antiquity” that is taking place from 10 to 15 October 2022 in the halls of the New Hermitage. Adults and children with various special needs are joining in the festival, with a special programme being prepared for each group. Interactive guided tours and art mediations based upon interaction with the new tactile models will allow participants to immerse themselves in the astonishing world of Ancient Greece and Rome. A special route provides an introduction to the culture, traditions and mythology of Antiquity in a new format. Lectures given by staff researchers and creative master classes in decorative painting on pottery and the making of cameos will help people discover the Ancient World with its legends, fragrances, meals and music. The new sets of guided tours and lessons will become part of the museum’s permanent repertoire.

The project has been implemented by the State Hermitage’s Department of Classical Antiquity in collaboration with the Development Service, the School Centre, the Department for Scientific and Educational Work, the Youth Centre and the Sector for Work with Volunteers.