News & Updates
In The News: Tactile Paintings for Guests with Visual Disabilities in Liberty ExhibitNovember 11, 2021
Nationally renowned historical artist Don Troiani's paintings of scenes from the Revolutionary War are dramatic and densely packed with meticulously researched details that bring the compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events of the American Revolution to life. Using a masterful combination of “artistry and accuracy” (New York Times), Troiani has dedicated much of his artistic career to transforming the modern understanding of what the Revolutionary War truly looked like.
So when we opened our newest special exhibition, Liberty: Don Troiani's Paintings of the Revolutionary War, which plunges visitors into some of the most pivotal events of America’s fight for independence and reveals Troiani’s research-based artistic process, we faced a difficult question: how do we distill these nuanced paintings into a meaningful experience for people with visual disabilities?
Enter the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Clovernook provides life-enriching opportunities while empowering people who are blind or visually impaired to be self-sufficient and full participants in their communities. Its braille printing house produces books, magazines, and other materials for the National Library Services and braille patrons worldwide. For Liberty, Clovernook created and donated raised tactile images of three of Troiani’s paintings — including Brave Men as Ever Fought, The Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, and The Oneida at the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777 — for use at the Museum by guests with visual disabilities.
Tactile Paintings in Liberty
These tactile versions of Troiani's paintings utilize a variety of raised textures, complete with a key to understand what each texture represents, to interpret the painting through touch. Because many of Troiani's paintings are so densely packed with detail, it left the challenge of making sure the tactile versions got to the heart of what each painting was truly trying to convey. However, working through user testing on early versions alongside Clovernook helped to refine the final result. For example, an early version of the tactile image of Brave Men as Ever Fought featured the inclusion of a gray cat on a windowsill near the center of the painting, but testers were left confused as to why it seemed like a cat was floating in the middle of the painting. The cat was removed from the final version.
In addition to the tactile paintings, Liberty also features an audio tour with transcriptions. Liberty is open at the Museum through Sept. 5, 2022.
Read more about the tactile images from reporter Peter Crimmins' recent story for WHYY.