Child in A Strange Country: Helen Keller and the History of Education for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
October 26, 2021 - January 22, 2022
What would you do if everyone believed you could not learn? In 1891, teacher Anne Sullivan described her famous student, Helen Keller, a young Alabama girl left blind and deaf by disease. “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. This was made possible by educational tools developed since the late eighteenth century, beginning with the invention of the tactile book in 1786 in Paris, France. Valentin Haüy’s book featured raised letters, and proved 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.