Neanderthal Museum

Neanderthal Memories

The Neanderthal Museum is located close to the place where the world-famous Homo Neanderthalensis was found more than 160 years ago. Here, visitors go on a journey through 4 million years of human history – for the first time and in a unique and consistent way, blind and partially sighted people can now also enjoy an equal museum experience in the Neanderthal Museum. Back to the Stone Age in a very modern way, that’s how they call it in Mettmann.

The Neanderthal Museum exhibition tells the story of mankind: from the beginnings in the African savannahs to the present day, using the most modern, inclusive means of communication.

inkl.Design has installed a floor guidance system throughout the building, which enables independent orientation for blind and severely partially sighted people. The complete furnishing of the newly designed permanent exhibition also includes tactile offers and information in Braille. Stone Age tools, the faces of Stone Age people, the foot of a bonobo and much more can be grasped in the literal sense.

An app that facilitates navigation through the exhibition and conveys content in a playful way is the highlight of the inclusive tour.

In cooperation with the game studio “Wegesrand”, the audio guide was created, which offers an overview of the entire contents of the exhibition together with an archaeological game.

inkl.Design advised the museum on the implementation of the app and ensured that everything fit together seamlessly at the interfaces between the digital offering and the exhibition tour. The interface of the app is also barrier-free thanks to inkl’s expertise.

Without the intensive focus group work during the entire development process, valuable tips from future users would have been less well taken into account.

Today, every station that can be accessed via tactile QR codes consists of tactile offers, a holder for a long stick with the image of the QR code, and tactile orientation plans at prominent points in the wayfinding system.

The exciting inclusive tour starts with the museum building itself: the cross-sections of the building, which is built like a snail shell, can be felt right in the entrance area of the museum.

We are extremely proud that our work has been honoured with the Gold Award 2020 of the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD). The award is given to work that makes a particularly remarkable contribution to the realisation of an inclusive society. The international jury calls our work “A beautifully implemented idea that combines numerous aspects of accessibility and usability.”. We were pleased to receive this and it is an incentive for us to continue on our path.

Hands-on Stations in the Room

The visitor is standing by a tactile head model of a Neanderthal. In the bottom left corner of the image is the IAUD Gold Award 2021.
A view through the Neanderthal Museum focusing on a tactile station. The three-part tactile station is a form bent from sheet steel, which is mounted at a slight angle on a wall offset. The wall serves as a balustrade to the staircase centrally located in the museum. In the background, a model of a Neanderthal in a suit can be seen leaning against the wall looking into the museum.
Gregor Strutz and Isabelle Faber from inkl.Design, Tamara Ströter and a model of a Neanderthal in a suit stand together leaning against an offset wall. Tamara pats the Neanderthal's head with her hand. Everyone smiles at each other at this moment. In the background you can see a large representation of a map of Europe, Africa and Asia.
Tamara is standing at a large table designed by inkl.Design in the entrance area of the Neanderthal Museum. On the table are several tactile map of the individual floors of the museum. She feels the dimensions of the building on the basis of a 3D model, which is also attached to the table. In the background there is a view of visitors leaving the building...
A complete view of the table with tactile map in the entrance area of the Neanderthal Museum
The visitor is reading Braille on the table in the entrance area of the Neanderthal Museum. Her cane is leaning next to her in the holder provided in the table.
Two steel sheets bent at about 90 degrees are mounted on a concrete wall at an angle and projecting forwards. They stand next to each other and palpable models of Neanderthal heads are assembled on the upper surface. To the left and right of the tactile models are further tactile stations mounted on the approx. 1.50 metre high wall. The sheets are white and painted a light green towards the wall.
Two steel sheets bent at about 90 degrees are installed on a concrete wall at an angle to the front. They stand next to each other and tactile models of Neanderthal heads are mounted on the upper surface. A visitor is touching one of the head models.
On another tactile model in the middle of the picture, various hunting weapons and tools of prehistoric times are modelled. You can see differently shaped bones and stones. To the left and right of this are further stations with tactile orientation plans and audio guides. Parts of the exhibition can be seen in the background
Tamara Ströter stands at a tactile model on which a map of Europe is depicted. This tactile model is a curved shape made of sheet steel, which is mounted on a wall offset at a slight angle. Behind the wall is a staircase that leads to other floors of the museum. Looking out over the banister, one has a view of parts of the exhibition on the lower floor.
A visitor stands ain front of a tactile model on which a map of Europe is displayed. Parts of the continent are covered with a sheet of ice. The visitor feels this ice sheet. At the top right of the picture, a pictogram of a thermometer is shown on a white circle.
Tamara stands at another tactile model. On one of the curved steel sheets, a human foot is modeled with the sole pointing upwards. On the second lies the hand of a bonobo monkey. In the background a staircase leading upwards and parts of the exhibition.
On a bright curved steel sheet is a black hand of a bonobo monkey with the palm facing up. On the second touch station is a foot with the sole facing upwards.
A steel plate assembled on a concrete wall. On the upper surface tactile models of bone found are placed. A visitor can be seen to the left of the table. He is touching one of the bones.
Close-up view of a hands on station with models of bones found.
Side view of a hands on station which replica bones are mounted.
View of a hands on station on which several excavation layers can be seen.

Inclusion in Detail

Details of the inclusion concept are shown on a 3D graphic using two touch stations. It is made clear that the stations are easily accessible for everyone. And the cane holder, Braille and the high-contrast tactile letters are pointed out. Furthermore, an intuitive tactile map and the floor guidance system are highlighted. In addition, a smartphone shows that there is a accessible APP with an audio guide and a game.

Tactile Floor Indicators

On the picture you can see floor indicators in the entrance area of the museum. A straight path is shown with two adjacent dashed black lines. These go right across the picture. There is a visitor walking along the markings with her cane. In the foreground, there is a large green area on the floor that reads: Welcome.
On the picture you can see floor indicators in the exit area of the museum. Paths are shown in this guidance system with two adjacent dashed black lines. These are interrupted by a square, black dotted area at the points where the path continues in a different direction.
The picture shows the process of laying the floor indicators in the Neanderthal Museum. On the sides of the picture, you can see partitions that have been set up to look like rocks. A path runs straight through the picture and branches to the left and right at one point. The indicators are still taped off. In the back of the picture, you can see an installer bending down and pouring black resin onto the masked surfaces.
A close-up view of a square, black dotted area. Two adjacent dashed black lines depart from this surface in different directions.

Accessibility Concept

In the incl. office: Floor plans on which the positioning of the floor indicators can be seen are on a table. There are also various plans in the background showing the various stations of the wayfinding system.
A look over the shoulders of two colleagues at inkl Design during the planning of the wayfinding system.
Documents and architect's plans lie on a table in the studio of inkl Design. In the plans, the various stations of the inclusive wayfinding system were planned and located.
Three colleagues from inkl.Design inspect various samples of floor indicators for the wayfinding system.

Accompanying Media

On a table are many flyers for the Neanderthal Museum with Braille. They were designed by inkl.Design for the promotion of the project.
Detail photo of the flyers shown before. One hand is holding one of the flyers, while behind him on the table surface are many other flyers.
The staff and employees of inkl.Design celebrate the awarding of the IAUD Gold Award for the project "Neanderthal Memories"
Do you want to know more?
Click here to go to the project in the Neanderthal Blog.

Project Details

Project scope: Didactic concept for conveying the exhibition content to blind and visually challenged people, concept for accessible orientation and wayfinding, co-moderation and organisation of focus group workshops, conception and implementation of tactile models including product design, 3D data creation, graphic design, planning of floor indicators, production support and monitoring. 

A close-up view of the stencils glued to the floor for the floor indicators in the entrance area of the Neanderthal Museum.
Till Henning from inkl.Design assembles a hands on station.
The table designed by inkl.Design in the entrance area during assembly. You can see individual panels of the house overview, which still need to be assembled.
A craftsman glues individual parts for a tactile model.
An installer hand-glues small black circles for a square attention area of the floor indicators.
Tamara Ströter reads Braille on a tactile model. This tactile model is a shape bent from sheet steel, which is mounted on a wall offset at a slight angle. In the background you can see parts of the exhibition and a staircase leading up several floors of the museum.
Two white models of Neanderthal heads placed on a desk in the office. In front of them is colorful paper cut out into speech bubbles with the words: Good morning! and How are you?
The picture shows tactile cave paintings. They are located in a drawer and can be touched by visitors.
Several employees of inkl.Design inspect the delivered models from different bones in the inkl.Design office.
Gregor Strutz and Reiner Strutz of inkl.Design in front of the entrance to the Neanderthal Museum.
An installer brushes black resin onto the templates for the floor indicators.
A craftsman mounting one of the replica Neanderthal heads.
On the picture is the logo of the accessible app to the exhibition designed by inkl.Design. A circle is enclosed by an oval shape. Under the logo it says: NMSee -An inclusive app game at the Neanderthal Museum.
The picture was taken during the assembly of the touch stations. A not yet mounted touch object is lying next to the touch station.