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  1. 1. Verbal Description Training
  2. 2. You will be able to <ul><li>Use the Verbal Description Guidelines to create your own descriptions. </li></ul><ul><li>Understand how to use visitor feedback to customize your tours. </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the importance of lobby and gallery space descriptions. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Verbal Description is one tool in a tool kit of interpretive multisensory learning tools. <ul><li>This training is focused on skills related to describing works </li></ul><ul><li>of art and museum objects. However, it is important to </li></ul><ul><li>understand that verbal description is one of a number of tools </li></ul><ul><li>used to facilitate Universal Learning experiences, i.e., make art </li></ul><ul><li>accessible to people with and without disabilities and with a </li></ul><ul><li>variety of learning styles. Other tools include handling objects, </li></ul><ul><li>tactile experiences, tactile diagrams and maps, music, </li></ul><ul><li>sound, drama, movement, art making, and curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>integration activities. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Learning Tool: Verbal Description <ul><li>Verbal description is a way of using non-visual language to convey the visual world. It can navigate a visitor through a museum, orient a listener to a work of art, and provide access to the visual aspects of a performance. </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  5. 5. Guidelines for Verbal Description
  6. 6. Planning Your Verbal Description Tour <ul><li>Verbal description takes time. As a rule of thumb: include half the number of works as in a tour without verbal description. Careful selection of works for your tour is important. </li></ul><ul><li>Develop verbal description scripts for the objects on your tour, and review them with your visually impaired advisors for effective language, clarity and length of the descriptions, and appropriate pace of the tour. </li></ul><ul><li>The scripts are guidelines, not a text to be memorized. They will be modified according to your audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>Verbal description is also an essential part of a touch tour or tour that includes tactile diagrams and/or other tactile elements. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Pre-tour discussion <ul><li>In the lobby, or en route to the first tour stop, get a general sense of your visitors’ preferences or experiences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In order to help tour best meet your needs, may I ask a few questions about your vision? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is your best area of vision? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Would you be interested in a discussion of color? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you have visual memory of color or light? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is your previous experience with art or museums? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Beginning Your Tour <ul><li>During your introduction, include a description of the lobby and museum architecture. </li></ul><ul><li>Detail the museum ’ s accessibility features and programming. </li></ul><ul><li>As you move from one gallery space to the next, alert your group to the changes, and give brief verbal descriptions – a few words will be enough. </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporate multisensory elements when possible. </li></ul><ul><li>It is important to keep the initial verbal description separate from information about the historical context. </li></ul>
  9. 9.   Practical Considerations <ul><li>During the tour elicit audience responses through directed questioning and include your audience in the verbal description process. </li></ul><ul><li>After the description of the first work ask tour participants if any adjustments are needed. </li></ul><ul><li>Continue to elicit feedback throughout your discussion , and to modify your descriptions to meet the needs and interests of your audience. </li></ul>
  10. 10. For groups tours with sighted and visually impaired visitors: <ul><li>Give verbal description first to create equal opportunity for further interpretation and discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>You may want to include everyone in the verbal description process . Ask visitors with sight to describe elements in the work through directed questioning. This creates an engaging atmosphere. At the end of each description, restate responses and summarize observations. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Standard Information or Object-label Information <ul><li>Open with the following information: artist, nationality, title, date, mediums, dimensions, collection or owner. </li></ul><ul><li>This provides the same information available to sighted viewers, and places the work in historical context. </li></ul>
  12. 12. General Overview is the first and the most critical step in the description process. <ul><li>General overview includes subject matter and composition or form, as well as color scheme and mood, if appropriate. </li></ul><ul><li>Begin with stating the explicit subject of the work. Describe concisely what is represented in the work. </li></ul><ul><li>Next describe the composition and give an overall impression of the work. Give a snapshot of the work. Include mood or atmosphere, if relevant. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide visual information in sequence. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Orient the Viewer with Directions <ul><li>Use specific, concrete information to indicate the location of objects. </li></ul><ul><li>Use positions of the numbers on a clock. </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that the image is the equivalent of a mirror image. </li></ul>
  14. 14. General Overview Example <ul><li>In this portrait of Philip IV, we see the full figure of the king when he was about twenty-three years old. </li></ul><ul><li>His body is more than 6 feet tall and he dominates the frame, standing almost directly in the center, with a strong light on his face and body. </li></ul><ul><li>The interior setting shown in the painting is mostly in shadow and contains few objects. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Example (cont.) <ul><li>On the right side of the painting, there is a small wooden table, covered with a gold-embroidered red velvet cloth. On the table is the king's plumed hat. </li></ul><ul><li>On the left side of the painting, there is a column, partially hidden behind the king. There is also a wall tapestry in partial shadow behind Phillip ’s body. </li></ul><ul><li>His body is turned so that it faces the right edge of the painting. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Provide Vivid Details <ul><li>After giving a general idea of the work, the description should be more vivid and particularized. </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on important details, give them in sequence. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to remain objective. </li></ul><ul><li>Allow visitors to come to their own opinions and conclusions about the work of art. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Example of Vivid Details <ul><li>A round white lace collar is directly below his face. Below his collar is a crimson-colored silk cloak. The cloak covers part of his chest, crosses over his shoulders, and hangs down behind him. The cloak billows out behind the king as though a light breeze is blowing its fabric. Its bottom edge is trimmed with gold lace. </li></ul><ul><li>The sleeves are made of striped, iridescent silk. On his hands, he wears gauntlets, which are gloves with large cuffs. The gloves are made of brown suede and are embroidered with gold . </li></ul>
  18. 18. Focus on the Style <ul><li>Describe features that identify a work as being by a particular artist, school, movement, period, or region. Mention </li></ul><ul><ul><li>brushwork </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>tone and color </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>choice of motifs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>subject treatment </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on how these elements contribute to the whole. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Description of Velazquez’s style <ul><li>Velázquez paints this tranquil and composed moment for a specific purpose: to emphasize the stability of Philip's kingly presence. As though the king is saying, I am here and I will remain at my post no matter what happens. </li></ul><ul><li>Velazquez also emphasizes the king ’s importance by how he frames the scene. The side edges of the frame cut off parts of the column on the left and the table on the right. Except for the king, everything in the painting is fragmentary. Only the king is shown whole and complete. So the viewer immediately focuses on the monarch. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Describe the Importance of Technique or Medium <ul><li>There may be a relationship between the implicit content and the technique or medium. </li></ul><ul><li>Help your audience to understand the relationship between the style/meaning and the choice of media. </li></ul><ul><li>Assess audience interest in this technical information . </li></ul>
  21. 21. Example of Medium Description <ul><li>Fifteenth-century artists such as Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck realized the advantages of the oil-painting medium. Because the oil paint is slow to dry, it is easily manipulated by the brush on a wood panel or canvas surface. This flexibility enables the artist to blend colors easily. By the subtle blending of colors, the painter is able to model forms, and suggest light and shadow. The illusion of light and shadow makes the forms appear more three-dimensional . </li></ul>
  22. 22. Use Specific Words, Explain Concepts and Terms <ul><li>Clear and precise language is crucial. </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid ambiguous or figurative language that can be taken literally: i.e., “ light falls on an object ” may have little meaning for a blind individual. </li></ul><ul><li>Explain art terms and pictorial conventions, such as perspective, focal point, picture plane, foreground, and background. </li></ul>
  23. 23. One-Point Perspective <ul><li>This scene shows Christ and Peter placed in the center foreground, with disciples and contemporary citizens arranged in rows on either side of them. In a brilliant piece of stagecraft, Perugino directs our focus to the heart of the painting – the transferring of the keys. Perugino does this by skillfully exploiting the pictorial convention of one-point perspective. </li></ul><ul><li>One-point perspective is a way of projecting an illusion of the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. In this formula for rendering spatial recession, all parallel lines appear to converge at a single point on the horizon, called the vanishing point. Perugino used this system to create a sense of spatial recession and to focus our attention on a single point. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Refer to Other Senses as Analogues for Vision <ul><li>Try to translate a visual experience into another sense. </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to the sense of touch when describing the surface of a sculpture or the materials. For instance, a glass-like surface of Brancusi’s Bird in Space or a rough-hewn texture of Rodin’s Balzac . </li></ul><ul><li>This may be an integral part of the work ’ s formal value, as well as of its meaning. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Example of Referring to Other Senses <ul><li>This Block Statue of Senwosret senebefny is sculpted in brown quartzite, which is a very hard, grainy stone. </li></ul><ul><li>This material feels gritty to the touch, somewhat like sandpaper, and it was very popular in Dynasty 13. This graininess tends to soften the hard edges of detailed carving. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of its quality and its tawny flesh-like color, quartzite imparts a warm life-like quality to statuary . </li></ul>
  26. 26. Explain Intangible Concepts with Analogies <ul><li>Use analogies to explain visual phenomena, such as shadows or clouds. </li></ul><ul><li>Cubist painting - shattered wine bottle analogy </li></ul><ul><li>To construct a helpful analogy, choose concepts from everyone ’ s common experience. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Encourage Understanding Through Re-enactment <ul><li>Instruct visitor to mimic the figure ’ s pose. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows viewer to directly perceive formal characteristics such as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Symmetry or asymmetry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>open or closed forms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implied action or rest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Smooth or angular lines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Degree of engagement with viewer </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Example of Re-enactment <ul><li>Stand up straight. Now bring your left foot back so your left heel is a few inches directly behind your right heel and pointed to the left. Your feet should be at almost a right angle, with your right foot pointing straight forward and your left foot pointing to the left. This stance puts the right side of your body forward. </li></ul><ul><li>Now place your left hand on your left hip. Philip is wearing a sword, so imagine that you have a sword attached to your belt and your left hand is resting on the sword's handle. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Example (cont.) <ul><li>Your right arm should fall straight down to your side. Your right hand holds a baton, which is a stick about two and a half feet long. The baton is a symbol of the king ’s power. Hold the baton so that it is horizontal. </li></ul><ul><li>If you were the stand-in for Philip in this painting, your chest would face toward your left, or the painting's right edge. And your face would be turned right, looking straight toward the viewer outside the painting. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Use Touch Objects and Tactile Materials <ul><li>Touch objects can help to complete one’s understanding of the art work and artist’s process. Such materials might include </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Art making materials such as marble, bronze, clay </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Artists tools such as paintbrushes, canvas, chisels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scale replicas and models </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Provide Historical and Social Context <ul><li>Such information may include </li></ul><ul><li>Political meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Social function </li></ul><ul><li>Ritual or religious function </li></ul><ul><li>Art historical influences </li></ul>
  32. 32. Describe the Physical Context: Indicate Where the Curators Have Installed a Work <ul><li>This may reveal important information about its meaning, as well as its relationship to other works in the collection or exhibition. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Describe the Lobby, Gallery Space and Museum Architecture <ul><li>Questions to consider when in the lobby: </li></ul><ul><li>Where can you best position the group for the beginning of the tour? You may want to stop in several places as this will help give the visitor a sense of scale. Always indicate where you are located in relationship to the street or entrance. </li></ul><ul><li>How does sound help to understand some aspects of the space? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the sound levels in the space? Can you hear street sounds, noise from the museum store, or coat check? Explain them. </li></ul><ul><li>Start with a brief description of the exterior and interior architecture. Convey the materials and scale of the space. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Lobby and Space Description (cont.) <ul><li>What architectural elements can be touched? How do touchable objects contribute to creating a mental image? </li></ul><ul><li>When you are entering a new gallery space describe it briefly. </li></ul><ul><li>When plotting your tour, consider which spaces are accessible and which have seating areas. Is it easily accessible by wheelchair and by people with other mobility devices? </li></ul><ul><li>When using tactile maps and diagrams, consider seating and when possible tables or tablets to hold diagrams. </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Follow up with listening and writing exercises. For listening exercises use recorded verbal description using the links on this site. You can do it online or on your iPod. </li></ul><ul><li>For writing verbal descriptions, practice writing concise 3-5 sentence overviews as well as full verbal descriptions. Review them with users, revise language, word choices, similes, metaphors after receiving feedback. </li></ul><ul><li>Practice your descriptions in the galleries with small groups. </li></ul>Next steps re: fine-tuning verbal description skills