New mediation station in front of the model of the Paris Opera House

Accessible to all the Museum’s visitors
Le nouveau dispositif de médiation devant la maquette de l'Opéra
© Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy

On Monday June 19 2023, an initial universally accessible mediation station was permanently installed at the Musée d'Orsay, in front of the model of the Paris Opera House. The 5.60-metre-long panel contains a wide range of visual content, including illustrations and plans, along with explanatory texts in French and English. Transcriptions of texts in (French) braille enable them to be read by visually impaired visitors.

So as to be accessible to such visitors, 18 of the visuals on display have been interpreted in relief and are therefore tactile. The content presented has been developed by the Musée d’Orsay’s Artistic and Cultural Education and Mediation Department in order to cater for as wide an audience as possible.

The new station is a concrete expression of the Musée d'Orsay’s accessibility strategy and democratization and inclusion policy. A second universally accessible mediation station of similar design is set to be installed on the 5th floor terrace in order to present the panorama of the Seine’s right bank and the ways it changed in the 19th century.

This is the first universally accessible station to be incorporated into the Museum’s visit itinerary. It’s always very interesting to see how the public appropriates such new mediation arrangements. We’ve done our utmost to ensure that it’s as inclusive as possible and does nothing to hinder visitors’ movement in the area at the far end of the nave. Also accessible to and suitable for young visitors, it aims to facilitate observation and discovery of the Opera House model. (Guillaume Blanc, Director of the Visitors’ Department)
© Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy

A tailor-made initiative

This accessibility panel is set on a base designed by the Musée d'Orsay’s carpenter. As well as supporting the panel, the base is also designed to keep visitors at a distance, as the model is an extremely fragile work. The panel itself was made by Tactile Studio, a company specializing in creation of tactile displays. All its contents were developed with the help of the Conservation Department.

This open access tactile mediation station enables visitors with special needs to share the visit experience with the rest of the public.

When you can’t see, you have to reconstruct your environment with your other senses, and base yourself on details in order to reconstruct an overall representation of things. So tactile features are essential for comprehension of works. Explanations in braille and human mediation provide you with complementary help. (a sight-impaired visitor interviewed during their discovery of this new mediation device)

A step-by-step discovery of the Opera House model

This model was created for the Musée d’Orsay in the 1980s and presents the Paris Opera House as it was when it first opened. The longitudinal cross-section provides a comprehensive view of the way the building was organized.

So as to match the direction from which visitors arrive in the area concerned, the panel reads from right to left, which also coincides with the direction in which the audience in the Opera House is moving when you look at the model. It’s divided into four parts that present the entirety of the model and follow its various areas:

  • The cross-section of the Opera House (overall view);
  • the façade, foyer and grand staircase;
  • the auditorium;
  • backstage.

The Museum teams responsible for the mediation project chose to associate this first universally accessible station with the Paris Opera House. It’s one of the emblematic works in the Musée d’Orsay’s collections, creating a link between several techniques: architecture, urban planning and sculpture. It’s also a favorite with visitors, young and old alike. And although it’s primarily intended for the sight-impaired, Benjamin Charlieux, Mediation Officer at the Musée d’Orsay’s Visitors’ Department, points out that all our visitors benefit from it:

Although sight is evidently the sense made the most use of in the Museum, tactile devices provide us with a different way of comprehending a work, discovering it and identifying various details simply through touch.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are very few models in the Museum’s collections. Their outstanding character and success with the public make it all the more necessary to highlight them via such mediation stations.

© Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy
© Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy
© Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy