Louise Bourgeois in the Rijksmuseum Gardens
Rijksmuseum has launched the first ever museum video tour in Dutch Sign Language, made in collaboration with Roos and Martine Wattel from ‘Wat Telt!’ (‘What counts!’) and Max Vonk. This digital guide to 20 objects also includes fun facts, video clips and animations to enjoy between the artworks. It’s the tenth tour to be added to the Rijksmuseum app.
A decade of signing in the museum
The Rijksmuseum first offered tours in Dutch Sign Language ten years ago to accompany an exhibition by the deaf artist Hendrick Avercamp. This project involved a collaboration with the Dutch Sign Centre, which made a start on creating a lexicon of museum-related terms in Dutch Sign Language. This resulted in several new signs for ‘restoration’, ‘depot’ and ‘curator’, for example. The museum also developed a course for use in education for the deaf.
In 2016 the Rijksmuseum joined Museums in Sign and offers monthly tours of the permanent collection and exhibitions led by deaf guides. The new video tour means deaf visitors can visit the museum and get explanations in their own language whenever they wish – they can even watch the tour at home, before or after their visit. Next year, the Rijksmuseum wants to offer a video tour in International Sign.
About the makers
This sign language guided tour was made by the deaf sisters Roos and Martine Wattel from Wat Telt! and Max Vonk. Wat Telt! is an accessibility consultancy specialising in services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In 2015, Wat Telt! set up Museums in Sign (Musea in Gebaren) together with Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam. In 2019, Museums in Sign went independent and continued under the co-ordination of Wat Telt!. Max Vonk is a freelance film editor and colourist. Wat Telt! and Max Vonk Media have been working together since 2016 on multiple video productions in sign language.
Roos Wattel on the making of the video tour: Developing a sign language video tour is a major project. As well as having to create a new grammar, you need to pay close attention to facial expression, pace, sign locations, signing space and narrative sequence. You’re translating from a written language to a three-dimensional language, so information is being conveyed in a very visual way that has to get across every detail of the story perfectly. We are deaf ourselves, and we are very pleased that the Rijksmuseum wanted to ensure this was a truly inclusive project and work with deaf entrepreneurs.
The video tour in Dutch Sign Language is included in the Rijksmuseum app, which smartphone users can download for free. The tour is also available on a rental device at the museum for €5.
The video tour in Dutch Sign Language is made possible in part by the Bas ten Haaf Fund / Rijksmuseum Fund. The Rijksmuseum app was made with the support of KPN, a main sponsor of the museum.