BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

Blindness, art and exclusion in museums and galleries

Candlin, Fiona (2003) Blindness, art and exclusion in museums and galleries. The International Journal of Art & Design 22 (1), pp. 100-110. ISSN 1476-8062.


Download (171kB) | Preview
Official URL:


Drawing on interviews with blind people, this paper examines both their exclusion from museums and galleries and their responses to the art educational provision which is specifically designed to remedy that marginalisation. Blind visitors’ responses to these educational projects was polarised; respondents were either highly critical or very enthusiastic. This paper begins by outlining the interviewees’ criticisms which included, education officers’ misconception of how touch facilitates learning and aesthetic response, a lack of educational progression and blind people’s clear exclusion from mainstream events. I then ask why, given these problems, did other respondents respond so favourably, suggesting that these high levels of satisfaction were had little to do with museum provision but were the result of social interaction and of inclusion within the sighted community. I argue that, ironically, this sense of inclusion is premised on blind visitors’ structural exclusion from art institutions. Finally, the article examines those visitors who, illicitly or otherwise, already experience some aspects of the museum in multisensory terms but maintain that until museums’ and galleries ocularcentric orientation is reconfigured, there will be little possibility for these rogue visitors to develop their knowledge of art. Likewise, without institutional change educational events for the blind will continue to be an inadequate supplement to a structure that is and remains inequitable.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): blindness, art, museums, touch, access, inclusion, exclusion
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > History of Art
Depositing User: Fiona Candlin
Date Deposited: 15 May 2009 14:04
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2014 11:56

Archive Staff Only (login required)

Edit/View Item Edit/View Item