Not Seeing is Believing: Groundbreaking Exhibit Gives Glimpse into Vision Loss


Would you be able to recognize your city in total darkness?

DIALOG IN THE DARK, a new museum exhibit that opened last week in New York City, deprives visitors of all sense of sight to raise awareness about blindness and other visual impairments. The interactive experience, which The New York Times calls "more a form of participatory theater than an exhibition," was designed in partnership with Lighthouse International, a nonprofit organization fighting vision loss, and Premier Exhibitions Inc., known for its provocative BODIES…The Exhibition.

Staged in NYC's South Street Seaport, the exhibition is a great example of the power of exhibit design and interactive narratives to shift mindsets in society.  Participants enter the pitch-black exhibit and are provided with walking canes. They are greeted by guides, who are all blind or visually impaired themselves, and then move around the interactive environment for the next 45 minutes, maneuvering through scents, sounds, temperatures and textures to conjure the experience of well-known New York City landmarks. The big instructional themes of the exhibition are "Communication, Empathy and Tolerance."

The originator of the exhibition is German journalist and filmmaker Andreas Heinecke, the CEO and founder of Dialogue Social Enterprise. He has showcased DIALOG IN THE DARK to more than 7 million people in more than 35 different locations worldwide, and as a result of his dedication to create positive social impact, was awarded a Fellowship in 2005 by Ashoka. He's working on another exhibition and workshop, DIALOGUE IN SILENCE, about non-verbal communication.

According to Heinecke's profile on Ashoka, the immersive worlds that he creates help to "break down prejudices, to communicate and understand barriers that exist across different cultures, and to empower marginalized people."

To learn more, watch the videos below.