New light on 'the viewer': Sensing the Parthenon galleries in the British Museum

Ellen Adams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Classicists are beginning to recognise that the traditional template of the ancient viewer is that of an elite, urban, White adult male, and they are attempting to open up the subject to other eyes and voices. But the assumption of 20/20 vision remains, and certain conditions, such as colour blindness or stereoblindness, testify that 'vision' is experienced in a wide range of ways. Furthermore, we all notice, absorb, and remember the world differently. Art appreciation is therefore a personal perception, as is the description of artworks and their impact on us. Intermodal translation of the visual into the verbal has been a long-standing theme in Classics as ekphrasis. This chapter considers what we can learn from engaging with blind people in terms of how we look at, appreciate, and articulate visual art, particularly in terms of audio description (AD). It presents some of the aims, activities, and conclusions of a pilot study conducted in the Department of Greece and Rome and the Parthenon galleries of the British Museum. This involved ADs and touch/handling sessions for a small group of blind or partially sighted people and their companions over a series of four afternoons. A by-product of this approach is to review and reframe the sculptures in innovative ways, including a consideration of how these provisions might benefit sighted people.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisability Studies and the Classical Body
Subtitle of host publicationThe Forgotten Other
EditorsEllen Adams
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781000381337
ISBN (Print)9780367221959
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


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