Testing the Discovery Pen – French Collection

After the meeting I decided to try out the Discovery Pen and record the descriptions together with the object and information panels for “sighted” visitors. This is because I actually wanted to understand the concept of inclusive text and see how they realised this, of course being able to see takes away the “raw” experience of it but still it also allows me to really compare and analyse it. The Discovery Pen is only available for two sections in the Museum, the Egyptian collection and the French collection. Both are so very different, not just their content but also the layout. The French Collection is a typical display of paintings in a museum, all framed and lined up. Whereas the Egyptian part is located on ground food and a “walk through” experience, with very little light (because of conservation purposes) the screens really stand out. Here are my recordings:

Selection of paintings in the “French Collection” at the Bristol Museum













This was the only statue in the room.

There were also some French vases in a glass cabinet, they didn’t have any audio access though.


What I found is that there were three different “categories” in which the audio was recorded.

– one was a direct translation of the text which was on display (so not fully inclusive) – like “Fountainebleau-en-foret”

– the other took into account the things that can be seen in the painting and their positioning, as well as colours and ambience – like “The Pianist”

– the third group even told small personal accounts that were somehow related, like the woman who said she just recently watched a BBC program about this particular painter and hoped they would show the painting – like “Perseus and Andromeda”

All of them told the listener the title, painter, year and medium as well as some general background information.

For me as listener the more personal descriptions were the most interesting ones, because it felt almost like having a friend next to you who talks with you about the painting. Some of the speakers really put emotion into it and I liked that, because it made the object more alive. It was a lot more entertaining than just looking at the image and reading the panel, yet I was aware that this also implied certain interpretations that I might have not considered or even challenged. Because art is something “interpretative” (not so much like the facts and figures in the Egyptian section) I guess it is harder to create inclusive text that still remains somehow completely objective. And again, does it have to be? It made me think though, that in this case because a visually impaired person can’t see what is being described the interpretations of others somehow become their reality too and their way of “seeing” the painting.

Studying this section of the museum was very interesting and by using the Discovery Pen I somehow took away a lot more from it than if I would have just gone and looked at it. I can also understand what Paul meant when he talked about listening at information rather than reading it, sometimes it was hard to follow the speaker when my own thoughts drifted off a bit.


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