Friday, June 29, 2012

Please Touch Everything!

Museum of Typhlology / Museo Tiflológico
06/28/12 – Calle la Coru
ña, 18

The Museum of Typhlology calls itself “a museum to see and touch,” making it a perfect destination for families with small children. Typhlology refers to the scientific study of blindness.  But rather than science, this museum seduces through art and architecture. I brought a newly-minted teenager, somewhat against his will.  I can say that he did not complain during the visit, and even let himself be photographed. 

Museum of Typhlology
The lady at reception actually smiled and emerged from her desk to describe the museum to us (in Spanish), a welcome quite different from most art museums.  Our favorite section contained sturdy, detailed models of famous cities, monuments and structures.  From the Eiffel Tower to the aqueduct of Segovia, all were available to explore with eyes and hands.  On a random Thursday, there were two blind visitors—an older gentleman and his guide dog, and an adolescent girl with her family—and about two dozen sighted people in the museum. 

Models included the city of Jerusalem, the Taj Mahal, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the Alhambra.  Many of Spain’s most interesting buildings can be found here: El Escorial, the Royal Palace, the Mezquita of Toledo, and Gaudi’s famous Cathedral in Barcelona, to name a few.    

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The  Royal Palace, Madrid
To my disappointment, Madrid’s Museum of Archaeology has been closed all year for renovations.  So I was excited to find in the Museum of Typhlology a full-scale reproduction of the stunning “Lady of Elche,” an Iberian funerary bust believed to date from the fourth or fifth century BCE.  

Dama de Elche.  Found near Alicante, Spain in 1897.

"Autumn" (1989) by blind artist Rosa Garriga

After pondering a collection of photos, sculptures, and paintings created by blind or visually impaired artists, we descended a staircase to the lower level of the museum.

There one can learn about the development of the Braille reading system, and machines that were invented to make life easier for the visually impaired: special typewriters, calculators, drawing boards, puzzles and voice recorders.

Machine for typing Braille as well as musical notation

The Museum of Typhlology is perhaps the only place in the world that hangs a frieze from the Parthenon at eye-level, and then invites you closer.

Hours: Tues –Fri, 10 am– 2 pm, & 5 pm – 8; Sat. 10-2.  Address: Calle la Coruña, 18. Metro: Estrecho.  Located on the third floor of the ONCE building.  ONCE is a non-profit corporation devoted to improving the quality of life of blind and visually-impaired persons in Spain. 


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