December 31st 2014
Referred to by many as “The Blind Museum,” Dialogue in the Dark is one of three experiential museums housed on the grounds of the Israel Children’s Museum in Holon, just four miles south of Tel Aviv. Dialogue in the Dark is organized into a series of rooms which visitors explore in complete darkness, replicating the experience of blindness. Tour groups journey through the museum in small batches of 10 or so participants. Before entering the dark exhibit hall, each visitor is given a long cane and taught how to use it to negotiate in the complete darkness that awaits them. As each group enters the exhibit and walks together down a narrow hall, the amount of light gradually diminishes until visitors find themselves in total darkness.
Groups are escorted by Dialogue in the Dark guides through the whole experience, which lasts 60 to 90 minutes. The guides here are all blind or partially sighted and are specially trained to keep visitors safe and comfortable. They introduce visitors to the experience of finding one’s way around a public park, experiencing a lively city street, recognizing produce by touch at a food market, listening to music, boarding and exiting a boat on the water and ordering and paying for food in a café – all without being able to see a single thing. The guides are experienced and responsible, and visitors, whose sense of sight is completely unusable in the utter darkness of the exhibit, quickly learn to put their trust in their guides.
In the cafe, once all of the group members have purchased something to eat and drink and have found a seat, the floor is open for the visitors to ask their guide anything they wish. After the open discussion, intended to provide a window of understanding into the daily life of the guide, visitors exit the exhibit in a path of gradually increasing light. In a small, dimly lit room just before returning to the outdoors, visitors have a chance to see how well their guide’s physical appearance matches the mental image they had.
Dialogue in the Dark in Holon is one of almost 20 installations of the exhibit worldwide.