Art What! Arts Singapore

Art What!: Asian Civilisations Museum launches tactile museum experience ‘Up Close With ACM’

From 25th September 2021, the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) will launch Up Close with ACM, a free public programme, supported by Keppel Corporation, that aims to bring its participants closer to museum objects through sensory experiences conducted by facilitators with Visual Impairment (VI) from Dialogue in the Dark Singapore (DiDsg). Operating under Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), DiDsg curates and runs programmes that aim to develop empathy and foster inclusion of persons with VI.

Up Close with ACM is part of ACM’s continuing efforts to extend the museum experience to audiences of all backgrounds and abilities. The programme also serves as a platform to educate participants on how persons with VI experience objects in their daily activities.

ACM collaborated with Keppel Technology & Innovation (KTI), the Group’s platform to co-create and incubate ideas, to develop a tactile interactive kit to engage persons with VI. Four masterpieces from ACM’s Maritime Trade and Court & Company galleries were specially selected because of their tactile qualities. Leveraging on KTI’s expertise in additive manufacturing, 3D-printed objects were created in full detail to match the forms of the ACM objects. 

Co-developed by ACM and DiDsg, the 90-minute long public programme consists of a dialogue and touch session, and closes with a tour. A Dialogue & Touch Session sees the 3D-printed objects providing programme participants with an opportunity to touch ACM’s masterpieces – an action forbidden in museums. Blindfolded participants will get to converse with DiDsg facilitators and experience these objects through their sense of touch. To complete the tactile experience, the 3D-printed objects are accompanied by object cards, on which participants can draw their object, and answer a thought-provoking question, further engaging them with the objects they are interacting with.

Experiencing the museum in a new way, participants will gain a unique perspective from the DiDsg facilitators as they are taken on a tour of ACM’s Maritime Trade and Court & Company galleries, where they get to view the four objects they interacted with on display. During the tour, the facilitators will engage in conversation with participants – sharing their take on the objects, their perspective as a facilitator, and living life with VI.

Up Close with ACM is a unique way for people to gain a better understanding of the visually impaired community. In having facilitators with VI point out various aspects of the masterpieces during the tour, we hope participants realise how easily the sighted may miss seeing finer details and take their sense of sight for granted. At the same time, our staff with VI are stretched and exposed to different forms of facilitation,” said Dr Joyce Tang, Director of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Office of Service Learning which runs Dialogue in the Dark Singapore.

ACM will be working with longstanding partners SAVH and SPD, which focus on persons with VI and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) respectively, to bring the 3D-printed collection to their centres. Through close facilitation with ACM staff and volunteers, participants will be able to tactilely interact with these 3D-printed objects, and learn more about ACM’s collection in the comfort of their own spaces. The outreach programme is slated for early 2022, and subject to prevailing safe management measures.

The outreach programme with SAVH will be held weekly over five weeks. In addition to reaching out to Persons with VI at SAVH, those from the community who are interested will be encouraged to sign up via SAVH. During each session, participants will interact with a 3D-printed object while engaging in a discussion with an art therapist, to learn more about the object through interesting facts and stories. This will be followed by an art-making workshop inspired by the object. 

A candelabra from the Qing dynasty that visitors will be able to ‘touch’

The outreach programme with SPD for their clients will also be held monthly over five months. Using the 3D-printed objects, participants can explore the ACM collection not just through visual learning, but also through their sense of touch. During each session, participants will be blindfolded before touching the 3D-printed object. They are encouraged to tap into their imagination and guess what the object might be. After this, the 3D-printed object will be revealed to them and a facilitator will share interesting facts about the ACM object upon which it is based. Participants will be invited to share simple observations about the object, such as on the colours, patterns, and designs. To supplement their learning, participants will then take part in hands-on craft activities inspired by the ACM objects. The craft segment will enable participants to appreciate the design and craftsmanship of ACM objects, and at the same time, encourage creativity, self-expression, and confidence among participants. 

Prunella Ong, Manager of Audience, ACM, explains, “Up Close with ACM is a result of a natural understanding between Dialogue in the Dark Singapore and the museum to create spaces and programmes for persons from all backgrounds and abilities, as well as to encourage and promote an inclusive society, especially during these challenging times. By developing a sensory experience around a tactile interactive kit of 3D-printed objects, a selection of ACM masterpieces is not only made available to all to experience, they are also made accessible beyond the walls of the museum. For the first time, anyone can get up close with our objects – to touch a highly-detailed 3D-printed version and better appreciate the craftsmanship of each piece. We are extremely thankful to Keppel Corporation for making this programme possible, and Dialogue in the Dark Singapore for their talented facilitators and expertise in developing the sensory tours. I invite you to support this programme by registering for a place. All our programmes will be conducted with safe management measures in place.” 

Hookah base in the form of an elephant that visitors can ‘touch’

Ho Tong Yen, Director of Group Corporate Communications, Keppel Corporation, said, “Keppel is pleased to support Up Close with ACM both financially and through leveraging Keppel Technology & Innovation’s capabilities in 3D printing. This collaboration will help to increase the accessibility to ACM’s masterpieces by PWDs, deepen the public’s empathy and understanding for those with visual impairment, and also provide a platform for the dedicated and talented facilitators from Dialogue in the Dark Singapore to showcase their distinctive expertise. Through such programmes, we hope to build a more inclusive society and make the arts accessible to all.”

Photo Credit: Asian Civilisations Museum

Up Close with ACM will be held on 25th September, 30th October, 27th November and 18th December 2021.  Visit ACM’s Peatix Page to sign up for a session.

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