Child in a Strange Country: Helen Keller and the History of Education for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Now through June 25, 2014 -- Downtown Library Lobby And 3rd Floor
Child in a Strange Country: Helen Keller and the History of Education for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is a new traveling exhibit from the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind exploring the human ingenuity expressed by generations of teachers and students.
There will be an opening reception for the public at the Downtown Library on Friday, May 2 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. There will also be related events throughout May and June at the Downtown Library.
In 1891, teacher Anne Sullivan wrote a report about her famous young student, Helen Keller, an Alabama girl who lost her hearing and sight at an early age. “For the first two years of her intellectual life she was like a child in a strange country,” wrote Sullivan, realizing that for her student, no learning was possible until she could overcome the communication barrier posed by blindness and deafness. Eventually, however, Keller became the first deaf-blind woman in America to earn her undergraduate degree, graduating from Radcliffe in 1904.
This was made possible by a number of educational tools developed in Europe and the United States since the late eighteenth century, beginning with Valentin Hauy’s invention of the tactile book in 1786 in Paris, France. Hauy’s book featured raised letters, and helped prove that blind people could learn to read. Louis Braille’s dot code, introduced in 1829, allowed students to both read and write.
“Child in a Strange Country” explores four primary subjects: Reading, Science, Math, and Geography. Using Helen Keller’s educational journey as a lens, the exhibit uses tactile reproductions and authentic artifacts to uncover the roots of modern education for children with vision loss.
The exhibit is designed to be fully accessible. Each section includes six panels mounted with tactile reproductions or touchable examples of real artifacts. Each concludes with a sit-down touch table with interactive games and activities which spur the sensory imagination. Labels are available in large-print, braille, and audio versions recorded in the APH studios on Frankfort Avenue.
Highlights of the exhibit include:
• Thirty-four artifacts, including a “washboard” slate used to write braille, similar to models developed by Louis Braille himself, and a giant thirty inch diameter relief model of the Earth.
• Fourteen tactile reproductions, including a page from Valentin Hauy’s original raised letter book and tactile maps by Martin Kunz and Harald Thilander.
• Thirty text and artifact panels with over fifty-three historic photographs, including ten images of Helen Keller.
• Four touch tables, with activities ranging from writing braille to performing math problems on both a tactile abacus and a talking calculator.