by Maksym Mazypchuk, Local Correspondent from Ukraine.
When you hear for the first time about a museum in total darkness, it sounds strange. However, it is a progressive idea of social entrepreneurship which is popular all around the world. In 2019, such an arts space was opened in Kyiv. It successfully combines business practice with a social mission by giving community insight into the lives of visually impaired people. In 2019, in total 20,452 visitors joined the excursions and had a new experience.
In the Museum of Darkness «Third After Midnight» all tours take place in complete darkness and are organised by blind guides. Visitors are not able to see anything at all, instead, they have the chance to discover a whole new world and fascinating experience. The first exhibit of this kind was held in Germany more than 30 years ago. Since then the idea is spreading around the globe.
«My friend and I heard about such museums from acquaintances who discovered them in Germany. Their emotional response was impressive – they told us about how they reassessed many things in their lives and changed their attitude towards people with disabilities. I was surprised that such a small tour can affect people that much! This idea stayed with me for a while. I wanted to feel it myself and provide such opportunities for people in my city as well. After a while we decided to open such a museum by ourselves in Kyiv», Alina Marnenko.
The main mission of the museum is to break stereotypes about people with disabilities and empower them by giving them a chance to display their talents and professional skills. Now they have several completely different formats: it’s a date in the dark for couples, and a quest of feelings, art exhibitions, where models of famous landmarks are available to the touch, as well as a new blind city tour “Feel Kyiv.” In order to explore the objects and space, visitors use other senses. This approach helps to understand better whether the area in which we exist is comfortable and accessible to everyone.
Imagine yourself in your city completing your daily routine, but in complete darkness. Your task is to repeat the usual things without using your vision – to cross the road with a traffic light, to focus on hearing, to find the door to your apartment by touch. All other senses are exacerbated, and people realize what a small percentage of their capacities they are using in everyday life. The guide is always nearby and provides assistance as well as answers all questions visitors may have. Many do not even think about the lifestyle of a blind person until they encounter the same condition during the tour. For example, how difficult it is to cross the road if the traffic light is not sounded for people who lost their ability to see, or how inconvenient are the cars parked on the sidewalk.
«Unfortunately, people often thought that the visually impaired are limited in home, employment, or having fun. Usually by the end of the tours all their stereotypes are out the window. Moreover, our guides inspire and motivate our visitors. But now they also understand how many opportunities there are around us. In our museum, we don’t use a single world for explanations and instructions. We are happy to provide people a chance to explore the small world of others and draw their own conclusions. For now, the main goal for us is to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, optimize all business processes, and scale further. The opening of the second museum was planned for autumn 2020 in Lviv, but due to quarantine restrictions, the event got postponed.» Alina Marnenko.
Learn more about Museum of Darkness experience here.
This article was produced by Maksym Mazypchuk, the Project’s local correspondent and EaP Civil Society Fellow from Ukraine in the framework of the EU-funded ‘Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility – Regional Actions’ Project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Maksym Mazypchuk and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the Project.
Read more about our local correspondents here.