Sensing Nature explores through touch and hearing

The current Object Stories gallery features Sensing Nature, an exhibition and community partnership project that reflects on Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection by examining how we experience the world around us through senses other than sight.

Seeing is only one way to enjoy an aesthetic experience of the physical world, but by default, art museums focus on sighted visitors. Sensing Nature brings attention to the many other ways that people interact with the physical world and appreciate its nuances—specifically, through touch and hearing.

In Sensing Nature, visitors are invited to close their eyes and touch, listen, and respond to stimuli found in the outside world through our other senses. Visitors are encouraged to use their fingers and hands to navigate swell and laser-cut maps. The maps are tactile descriptions of walks taken by Susan Detris and Mitch Turbin, members of Portland’s blind and low vision community. Visitors can also discover the sound-based qualities that make our Portland neighborhoods unique through recordings made by acoustic ecologist Kenya D. Williams.

As museum scholar David Carr once stated, “Museums aren’t for everyone. But they should be for anyone.” The Portland Art Museum recognizes the diversity of our communities’ abilities and needs, and is dedicated to ensuring the accessibility of the Museum, its programs, and its collection. Through new program initiatives and community partnerships, we are working to ensure that people with visual impairments and other disabilities enjoy the art and cultural experiences that we offer. Tours for the blind and visually impaired are offered each month, and the Museum recently launched a new program called artNOW serving people with dementia and their caregivers, part of a partnership with OHSU and the Alzheimer’s Association. Sensing Nature is part of these active efforts to become a more inclusive museum here in our community.

Sensing Nature was developed by Kristin Bayans, Interpretive Media Specialist, with the support of Portland Community College’s Disability Services and the PCC MakerSpace. The exhibition is open to view, touch and listen in the Object Stories gallery on the Museum’s Lower Level through January 18, 2016.

The Portland Art Museum welcomes all visitors and affirms its commitment to making its programs and collections accessible to everyone. The Museum offers a variety of programs and services to ensure a quality experience and a safe, inclusive environment for every member of our diverse community. Learn more at