Events

10 June 2015 saw the already fourth edition of an event which brings people together regardless of their disability (or lack of it), age, origin or views. As the event involves a number of communication channels, it is a unique opportunity to become familiar with arts, here opening up to new ways of reception. It is also an exchange of experiences between those who make adaptations and those who will assess their efforts best since they are able to say whether the goal has been reached, whether culture proposed in this way can indeed be “touched” at its fullest. And this is precisely what the event is mainly about. It is not the organisers but the guests who are responsible for the shape of the following edition: they indicate what captivated them and what was missing.

During this year’s edition of To Touch Culture, portraits by Olga Boznańska were presented of Xawery and Zygmunt Pusłowski, adapted to needs of blind persons into the tactile graphic form. Next to the images, relevant commentaries were available with additional descriptions of the paintings. Additionally, helpful volunteers were on hand to comment on the tactile images comparing them with the original paintings shown nearby. The visitors asked questions as to the dimensions of the works and some other details, vital for the originals but maybe absent in their adaptations.
In yet another room at the Collegium Maius used for the purposes of the exhibition, some works made by students were exhibited, meant to present art to persons with disabilities. A work showing the phases of the moon was highly popular and the author received numerous opinions from the visitors who praised the work, the mode of its execution and the very idea behind it. They also offered valuable comments on spelling mistakes or font size, often found to be too large. Such observations were expressed, in their view, to improve the work so that it could be enjoyed by others, as it truly deserved to be appreciated.
Another item worth mentioning was a mock-up of the historical Collegium Maius building, complete with a spatial plan. Its unquestionable advantage was a creative use of olfactory sensations as each of the blocks representing individual rooms featured the source of the smell characteristic of the place. For example, a block with an extruded globe which represented Copernicus’ Hall smelled of gingerbread and spices (characteristic of the city of Torun where the astronomer worked). The visitors paid attention to the originality of the aromatic compositions (apart from gingerbread cookies, there were also smells of cigarettes or turpentine) yet noted that, put so close to each other, the smells could be “transferred” all over the place, and as a result convey the very idea of the project in a distorted way. Ultimately, however, the creation was perceived as interesting and innovative, while the combination of the senses of touch and smell were seen as both a challenge and a curious experience.
The court of the Museum offered further attractions. Commentary on old seals presented in the form of tactile graphics was offered by PhD students from the Jagiellonian University’s Institute of History, sharing the history of the exhibits and explaining their meaning. Nearby, Brotherhood of Knights members were re-enacting fights between medieval knights. Their performance attracted a large audience and sometimes made the spectators fear for their lives or, alternately, burst with laughter. What should be commended is the impressive competences of the young people from the Brotherhood, who were able to indefatigably explain in detail the combat rules and present the armour they used. Importantly, their explanations were highly engaging, and so attracting an ever larger crowd of visitors. They let them try out the shields and helmets as well as check the weight of the weapons. The guests fell entirely for the stories told by the Brotherhood members, confirming that passionate story-tellers can be infectious by their passion.