WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 17, 2018)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is thrilled to announce a grant of $295,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to complete the digitization of the Helen Keller Archive and to make these additional materials accessible to those who are blind, deaf or hard-of-hearing, and deafblind.
Bequeathed to AFB by Keller in 1968, the collection contains detailed biographical information about her, as well as a fascinating record of over 80 years of social and political changes worldwide. Keller was likely the most recognized person with a disability in the 20th century, and used her extraordinary popularity not only as an advocate on behalf of those with disabilities, but also as a feminist, suffragist, social activist and published author.
This latest grant from the NEH represents Phase II of the Helen Keller Digitization project, with the goal of bringing Keller’s entire archive to all audiences. This funding enables AFB to digitize and disseminate the press clippings and scrapbooks – the most fragile and difficult items to handle. As a result, this rich and untapped resource has remained closed to the general public. These items will now become accessible, providing detailed information on Keller’s work in the public sphere and the public perception of disabilities in the 20th century. The first phase of the project kicked off in Spring 2015 and concluded in Winter 2017.
Digitizing the Helen Keller Archive both preserves the physical collection for generations to come, and provides immediate, online global access to both sighted and non-sighted audiences. The project also sets the standard for a fully accessible online archive that will create equal access to historical collections for those with and without visual and auditory disabilities.
“Helen Keller was both a product of her environment and a driving force upon it, and few archival collections have the potential of providing historians with so rich a source of information on the history and direction of the United States, and on attitudes to those with disabilities worldwide,” said Helen Selsdon, AFB Archivist. “Knowing this, AFB recognized the importance of disseminating this amazing resource that was both underutilized and difficult to access. Digitization was the way to achieve this goal, and we are immensely grateful to the NEH for their generous funding that made this project a reality.”
About the Helen Keller Archive
With over 80.000 items in the collection, the American Foundation for the Blind's Helen Keller Archive is the single largest repository of materials by and about Helen Keller in the world and includes correspondence, speeches, press clippings, scrapbooks, photographs, photograph albums, architectural drawings, and artifacts spanning over 80 years — from Alexander Graham Bell to Laurence Olivier. The archive includes materials from or by nine U.S. presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, as well as leading figures such as Mark Twain, Pearl S. Buck, Margaret Sanger, Albert Einstein, and Eugene Debs. It also contains voluminous correspondence from men, women, and children, sighted and not, who corresponded with Keller from around the globe and whose stories have never been told. Currently over 163,000 images can be viewed on the web site, and thousands more will be added during Phase II of the project. Visit: www.afb.org/HelenKellerArchive
About The American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org