The National Portrait Gallery will offer a guided tour this Saturday, from 1 to 2:30, for people who are deaf or blind. There will be interpreters, and since museums have a hands-off policy about sculpture, the Portrait Gallery has sculpture reproductions that can be touched.
Says Leni Buff, the docent program manager at the gallery, "We're welcoming an audience into the museum that has always been welcome and hasn't always felt welcome."
On the tour is a life mask of Helen Keller, done in 1916 when she was 36, by the Italian sculptor Onorio Ruotolo. She then looked nothing like the way she did when Anne Sullivan first saw her, deaf and blind, at age six. The teacher described her face: "intelligent but it lacks an ability or soul or something."
Next to it, is a bust of Anne Sullivan Macy whose pupil said of her: "Teacher created me out of a clod in the dark silence . . . hewed my life bit by bit out of the formless, silent dark."
The Portrait Gallery's tour is in conjunction with the D.C. Public Library's Deaf Action Week. Reservations are required for the tour: call 357-1696 (TDD) or 357-1697 (voice).