Red Oak launches “Doors. Please Touch” and opens museums in Lebanon for the blind and visually impaired
Under the patronage and in the presence of the Minister of Culture Dr. Ghattas Khoury, the "Doors. Please Touch" project was inaugurated at the National Museum of Beirut on October 29, 2018. The project, initiated by the Red Oak Association, in partnership with the “Omero” Tactile National Museum of Ancona in Italy, and in cooperation with the Italian Cultural Institute in Lebanon, is the first of its kind in Lebanon and the region. The project aims to promote the social and educational value of cultural heritage through an innovative approach to the heritage itself, based on multi-sensory experiences and in particular on touch, and focused primarily on the cultural and social inclusion of people with visual disabilities, in addition to multi-sensory museum paths usable by blind people.
The inauguration took place in the presence of Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti, the President of the Omero Museum Aldo Grassini, Director of the National Museum Anne Marie Afeiche, General Director of antiquities Sarkis Al Khoury, Red Oak Founder and President Nadine Abou Zaki. It was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education Higher Education, along with a number of international organizations, as well as blind and visually impaired persons and special schools’ officials.
The opening was launched with the choir of the Lebanese School for the Blind and Deaf (LSBD), and followed by the following speeches:
H.E. Dr. Ghattas AL Khoury
In his speech Minister AL Khoury said: First of all I would like to welcome all the audience present today. We are celebrating today an important event at the National Museum allowing blind people to enjoy the historical and cultural contents of our museum that are source for pride for all Lebanese, and to ensure that the visual impairment is not disability, knowing that there are people who can see and never made effort to visit this museum.
AL Khoury added: Those who have enlightened mind don't have any disability, and here I would like to thank and congratulate all those who helped and participated in this special initiative ‘DOORS…PLEASE TOUCH’ creating a chance to large number of those who lost sight to enjoy our museum’s acquisitions that reveal our culture.
The Director of the National Museum Anne Marie Afeiche delivered a speech in which she said: “This project, initiated by the Red Oak Association, represented today by its founder and President Nadine Abou Zaki, will allow our National Museum, as well as Sursock museum and MACAM museum, to open their doors to all the segments of the society, and in particular to people with special needs.”
Afeiche added that after that day, visual impairment will not remain anymore a barrier that prevents blind people from exercising their right to visit museums and to enjoy archeological objects, paintings and sculptures.
The specialized training offered by the Omero Museum will enable us to apply a contemporary approach to visiting museums, and will contribute to the rehabilitation of the museum by means of multi-sensory communication suited to the needs of people with visual disabilities. She called on all Lebanese museums to cooperate in the face of the challenge of enabling the blind and visually impaired people to appreciate visual works and to enable everyone to know our common heritage.
She concluded his speech by thanking the Red Oak Association and the Omero Museum and all those who will contribute in the execution of this project, which will allow a better service to the blind and visually impaired visitors to the museum.
The Italian Ambassador Massimo Marroti referred in a brief speech to the strong historical relations between Lebanon and Italy. He stressed on the keenness to further develop and deepen these relations, as well as strengthen cooperation between the two countries in various fields.
Mr. Marroti also praised the project launched by the Red Oak Association in partnership with Omero Museum and in cooperation with the Italian Cultural Center in Lebanon.
Abou Zaki, in turn said that “The Red Oak initiative, in partnership with Omero the Italian National Museum of Ancona, has now begun to bear its fruits in this adventure that we called “Please Touch”, which will hopefully enlighten the sight and minds of the blind and open for them a beautiful door on the sources of culture and civilization. Over the past six months, our continuous efforts in collaboration with the National Museum of Beirut, the Sursock Museum and the MACAM Museum paid off.
Those museums have now a collection of paintings, mosaic, sculptures and archaeological objects made accessible for tactile exploration and Braille inscriptions. This project came less than a month after the launching of “Red Oak Blind-Friendly Market”, an initiative that will hopefully get very soon replicated in different regions of Lebanon.”
She added: “Our program will start today in the National Museum. Tomorrow, we will visit the Sursock Museum where the cultural operators and guides will be trained under the supervision of the Omero Museum, on how to better assist the blinds. And on Wednesday, we will visit the MACAM Museum where blinds and visually impaired students will learn how to read a work of art through touch, while enjoying tactile artistic activities.”
In the end, Mikhael Haddad, known as the "God Father of the Blinds" in Lebanon, was honored for his long history and his distinguished contributions in the field of culture and education, and was awarded “Red Oak for culture and education award”. The ministries, embassies and schools were thanked for their support, and Blessed school for taking in charge the printing in Braille on the selected art objects.