Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Happy Birthday Helen Keller

June 24, 2021 American Printing House Episode 32
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Happy Birthday Helen Keller
Chapters
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Happy Birthday Helen Keller
Jun 24, 2021 Episode 32
American Printing House

Hello and welcome to Change Makers,  today we’re celebrating Helen Keller. Her birthday is Sunday, June 27 and to celebrate this Change Maker, we’re going to talk to two experts who examine her work up close and personal on a regular basis. We'll also learn how refreshable braille devices have opened the doors for everyone to communicate. We will also have a special segment from an Ohio State School for the Blind Senior.

On this Podcast (In Order of Appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Micheal Hudson, APH Museum Director
  • Justin Gardner, AFB Helen Keller Archivist, Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind
  • Peggy Sinclair-Morris, KSB Principal
  • Jerimiah T., This I Believe speaker


Additional Links


APH Products

Show Notes Transcript

Hello and welcome to Change Makers,  today we’re celebrating Helen Keller. Her birthday is Sunday, June 27 and to celebrate this Change Maker, we’re going to talk to two experts who examine her work up close and personal on a regular basis. We'll also learn how refreshable braille devices have opened the doors for everyone to communicate. We will also have a special segment from an Ohio State School for the Blind Senior.

On this Podcast (In Order of Appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Micheal Hudson, APH Museum Director
  • Justin Gardner, AFB Helen Keller Archivist, Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind
  • Peggy Sinclair-Morris, KSB Principal
  • Jerimiah T., This I Believe speaker


Additional Links


APH Products

Jack Fox:

Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara:

Hello, and welcome to change makers. I'm APH's Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we're celebrating Helen Keller. Her birthday is Sunday, June 27th. And to celebrate this Change Maker, we're going to talk to two experts who examine her work up close and personal on a regular basis. And we'll also learn how refreshable braille devices have opened the world of communication for all and we'll also have a special reading from an Ohio State School for the Blind senior. Up first, we're talking to APH Museum Director, Michael Hudson, and AFBs Helen Keller Archivist. Justin Gardner. These two are THE go tos for any and all things Helen Keller. Hello, Michael. Hello, Justin, and thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers. Michael, Justin, can you tell me what you do at APH in regards to Helen Keller?

Micheal:

Well, I'm the museum director, so, you know, I was responsible for working with Justin , uh, to , uh, first negotiate , uh , this, this arrangement that we have with the American Foundation for the Blind, that allows us to bring the collection to Louisville and put it on exhibit. Um, and so my job was kind of creating exhibits, creating displays, writing labels, and , uh, and then just generally supervising the way we store and manage the collection.

Justin:

And this is Justin , um, I'm the AFB Helen Keller Archivist. I work in the archive physically. Um, right now I'm concentrating on going through the AFB part of the archive. It's one of the things about this , this collection is that the AFB company archive came along with all of the Helen Keller materials, and that has not been , um, catalog and documented as thoroughly as the Helen Keller collection has. So I'm really doing right now, a very deep dive into that and organizing cataloging and getting a real mental picture of what's in there. So we can find things because there is an entire history of the field of visual impairment in these boxes. And that's what I've got to organize for people,

Sara:

Michael, I'm sure you've seen some amazing things in your position. Can you talk to us about some of the pieces that stick out for you in the Helen Keller archives?

Micheal:

Well, I think one of the things that I love, I mean, I love so much about this, Sara, you know, it's every box you open up is a, is an incredible piece. But I think for me, one of the, one of the interesting things is all of the portraiture of, of Keller. And he comes in a lots of different ways. You know, obviously there's tremendous photographic record. You know, this is a woman who traveled all over the United States and traveled all over the world. And so, you know, click, click, click, or wherever she goes, you know, photographers are, they're taking pictures, but then a lot of artists found inspiration in Keller's image. And so there are a lot of paintings. Uh, the , some of the ones I really love the most is the sculpture. Um, so , uh, for instance, there's this guy, Joe Davidson, who is this amazing , uh, late 19th and early 20th century , uh, painter and sculptor. He was the son of Russian immigrants and , uh, live between 1883 and 1952. And some are rather , uh, the Keller and, and Anne Sullivan and their assistant Polly Thomson , uh, become friends with Joe Davidson and his wife Florence and Helen becomes one of Davidson's favorite , uh, models. Uh, and so , uh, he, it looks like, I think the first, the earliest piece that's in the collection is from 1942 and it's just a, it's in clay terracotta, and it's just her head. Um, uh, and so it's obviously a model for a larger piece, and of course he does two larger pieces, but I really love this, this clay , uh, head that, that, that Davidson does, it's just her hair or face. Um, and he's just obviously fascinated with Helen and you can see it in the, in the way he's, he's taken his time , uh, to, to, to sculp this thing out of clay. Um , and you know, it was sitting, there's a lot of stories and , and research that still needs to be done about a lot of these images. Um, but that, that , uh, that head ends up being translated later , uh, into a full-sized piece that we also have in the collection that's made out of bronze. Um, and it is a full bus with Helen's hands. And a lot of times when you see artists do busts of , uh , famous historical figures, they don't include their hands, but of course, what would Helen be without her magnificent hands? Right? So this is a , almost a full torso with her hands , uh, you know , uh , spelling out , uh, you know , in, in, in dramatic fashion, you know, when you ever, you see pictures or, or, or film of , of counter hands are moving. And so both of these two Davidson pieces, I think are two of my favorite pieces in the collection,

Sara:

Justin, the Helen Keller archives are vast. What documents have you encountered that gave you chills or that surreal feeling?

Justin:

Oh, yes, absolutely. Um, and you know, I'll begin by saying, I am probably the least superstitious person you will ever meet, but my first day in the archive I walked in the first time I had ever been in here, as you said, it was vast. So I'm not sure exactly how my hand was guided to box, but I decided to open up a box, look to see what was in it. And it was a box that contained information on Marguerite Levine the first archivist of this archive , um, there was a 60 page interview and there was an autobiography. And , um, you know, it , it's almost like she was here training me on my first day. And I really do mean that because this interview was so detailed , um , it started with her life and France before she even moved to the U S her husband was a us army officer. And in another interesting event , um, in June of 1952 in France, she actually saw Helen Keller. Helen Keller was there to receive the French Legion of Honor and to view , um, Louis Brailles reinternment , um , of the interment of his remains. And she saw this in France and later went on to be the archivist and that Legion of honor, and her acceptance documents for acceptance speech is here in the archive that Marguerite later put together. Um, but it's very interesting because first she was hired by [inaudible] , who was the first to Miguel Librarian. And I used to be a Miguel librarian here too. So, you know, these are both of my predecessors and immediately that first day I walk in and I feel like I'm part of a family tree. So this was like really, really quite moving to me actually to find this document. Um, but it describes everything that she did. And she very, really did build the archive from this mass mass nothingness. Um, it was in four different buildings. It was an attics, it was in basements , it was in people's desks. She put all of these documents together and it took 10 years. She did this from about 1960 to 1970, just to get things together, not even to really use them yet. Um, that's how the AFB , the company archive developed. And also in that process, she found all of these Helen Keller materials. There was even a quote in her , uh , in her interview. She said, "how did I become the curator of her papers for the simple reason that the papers were there." So she came upon a lot of these things and built both archives, and it took a decade for her just to put this together. So, you know,

Micheal:

Justin, I think that's, that's , uh , Sara he's put his finger on it. I think both Justin and I feel this great sense of responsibility as if, you know, a series of hands from Helen herself and her parents handing these things down , uh, you know, through the American Foundation for the Blind. And now here in Louisville, Kentucky to Justin and myself here at the printing house, you know, w we're we're continuing this legacy of, of , uh, preserving these stories and , and sharing these stories. I, I know both of us feel Marguerite Levine and , uh, and Helga Linda looking over our shoulders and you can almost hear him , you know , uh , nodding their heads and approval. Absolutely.

Sara:

Michael, can you tell us about other artifacts or sculptures that left an impression on you?

Micheal:

Well, well , uh , another sculpture that , uh , when Justin and I brought it in , uh, just you'll remember it , it was just wrapped up in a thick layers of a foam and didn't appear to have been unwrapped and, you know, who knows how long, so were you in ? And you're like, wow, what is this going to be? Right. And it wasn't shaped, it wasn't shaped, right. The best way to describe is just, it , it, I didn't know what it was, right. So we , we take our scissors and we're really careful. And we , we , we take the foam off and there is this gorgeous bronze sculpture of Hellen's shoulders and head, and it wasn't signed. Uh , so there was no indication of who the artist was. And it was literally glued to a painted wooden pedestal that looked like it had been cut off halfway down with a saw . So , uh, it was the marble base that the, the bronze bust was , uh , attached to was glued to this wooden thing. Right. So there's no way to really use it in any way, shape or form. So we, so Justin and I started doing research on this thing and got it off of its wooden base. And it turns out that in , um, the 1930s, 1931, that Helen had posed for a German sculptor named Hans Albrecht von Harrach. Okay. I'm sure I'm butchering that German. Right. But hallmark was a well-known German sculptor. He had a studio in New York city, and that's where , uh, you know, Helen lived right outside of New York city. And so she'd come in, she'd been , uh, she posed for him and this, this posing, this setting appears in all kinds of American newspapers of, of her in his studio and him working on the clave version of the sculptor and , uh, the , the, the marble, the marble version of this that he eventually sculpted was paid for by the American Foundation for the Blind. Okay. They had obviously commissioned von Harrach rock to create this sculpture. And , um, in 1952 AFB gave the original marble sculpture to Ivy Green, which was , uh, the historic site, the Helen Keller Birthplace. Right. So where does this bronze come from? Because it's obviously a copy of the original marble, but we don't, we don't know. Now, if you crawl all over this thing, you find that there is a stamped in it somewhere where you can't see as Cellini Bronze Works. Okay. So a little, you know, doing a little research, it turns out that the saline bronze works was a , uh , a foundry that, that, that cast artwork. And it had went out of business , uh, 19 40, 45, somewhere around that. So at some point somebody paid theCellini Bronze Works to make a bronze copy of , of the original marble. And then the marble was given away to Ivy Green. And then the connection between all this had all been lost. So w you know, despite all the hard work that , uh, that AFB has done over time and, and everything that you know , that we talked about about Marguerite Levine and Helga Lindy still, there are mysteries in the collection. And so, you know, the fact that we might be kind of reconnecting some things with our original history. I , that, that I really , uh , you know, I, I get a lot of joy out of that.

Sara:

Justin, Helen Keller Really resonated with schoolchildren . I got a chance to look at the letters to Helen Keller, from students, from Wrangell , Alaska. What can you tell us about them?

Justin:

There's some interesting connections with this set of documents, too. So yes, in 1933 , um, a group of students in Wrangell , Alaska sent Helen Keller notes , um, and wrangle today has about 2000 people that live in it. So I think it was much fewer back then. It was mainly a fishing and cannery, the beautiful area. I looked it up. Beautiful . Yeah . Yeah . Um, so these students were in third and fourth grade, there were 16 of them. So that small, a number in two grades, I can kind of imagine them being in a one room schoolhouse or something. And they sent letters because their teacher noticed that during Christmas, they were all talking about what they wanted for Christmas and had totally forgotten about the spirit of giving. And she decided that they were going to send some letters to Helen Keller, because they had read about her in something called my weekly reader, which was a school reader that was published for virtual . I even read that when I was a kid in the eighties. So , um, they had read a story about Helen in their weekly reader. And they sent to her all of the money that they had earned from selling poetry pamphlets. They called it the Penny Press. They sold it for 2 cents a piece. And in total, they made $2.36. And they decided to send all of that money to Helen Keller, with notes, introducing themselves, and saying, please share this with blind children. And they're very nice, wonderful letters to read. Um, they got a letter back from AFB and the letter says that Helen Keller sent an autographed picture to this school. And they said, you know, she read every letter. She really enjoyed them. And thank you very much. And each of these letters, that's in the collection has been stamped with a stamp that has her signature on it. So I assume that must have meant that every time she went through a letter, they stamped her signature on it. And that it had been read by or to Helen. Um, so, and it was really, I'm going to say adorable to me. I just say that cause I'm a parent, I guess, because this article that they had read it's in the Helen Keller Archive here, it's about how Helen Keller had won $5,000 and they read this article and they sent her all of their $2.36. Anyway, I just thought that was wonderful. Um, so I I'd wanted to do a little bit more exploring, I don't know exactly why I decided to do this, but I looked up Wrangell, Alaska and the Helen Keller Archive. There was a second set of letters from these children. Now, the first set that I found was in the AFB archive, in a folder, the second set was in the Helen Keller Archive. And there were letters updating Helen Keller on what they did with her picture. And a lot of other things like their pets and their , their cats, their dogs, things that were going on in Wrangell. I thought that was great. So there was that connection there. I looked a little further and there was a third set. So the second set was from 1934. Then in 1935, the same group of students sent letters actually this time to Anne Sullivan Macy. So them and their teacher got together and sent letters to Helen Keller's teacher because they had read an article that she , um, had had surgery to improve her eyesight. So they decided to send letters saying, "we hope you feel better," "we hope your , your eyesight is better." Here are some pictures of Wrangell, Alaska and they had photographs of their town in it. And , uh, you know, the whole thing is I went further and further and found, found these connections within the archive that hadn't quite been made yet. And also I felt like I got to know these kids who are very literally my daughter's age, you know, it was just a really special experience to go through there. And again, making me me feel very close to Helen and to Anne and to the archive.

Sara:

APH Press offers a quote book "To Love This Life: Quotations by Helen Keller" for $14.95. Is there any favorite quote you have in this book or any other quote you have from Helen herself?

Micheal:

I don't know about, I have a favorite quote from that book, but my favorite Helen Keller quote is life is an adventure or nothing at all. And that's the way Helen lived her life. And I think we all can , uh , get some inspiration from that, that, you know, life is special, right. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference. And I think that's the way Helen lived her life. You know, it was either going to be, she was either going to go or she was not right. Yeah.

Sara:

What about you Justin?

Justin:

Yeah, actually I do agree with that. I've always loved that quote. Um, there's another one that I liked a lot that it's from the book and it says, I believe that misfortunes are often the keys, which opened doors of higher truth for us. Um, you know, it's short kind of short and sweet, but I think that the , the broad idea of that is , uh, is very true. Um, you know, we've all, we all have to face things. We all have to face difficulties, and sometimes you just have to see those , um, almost as exercises for your mind and for your soul, just like your body needs, exercise needs to lift heavy things and , and go through difficult cardiovascular work to get stronger. I think the same is true for your mind and for your soul and sometimes misfortunes that you face , um, and open up other doors for you. That is very true, very true.

Sara:

Michael, Justin, can you tell us where listeners can access all this wonderful information?

Micheal:

Well, as soon as we reopen on July 6th , uh, you will be able to come to the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind, the , and see a number of these things that we've put out on display from the archive. Um, but really the American Foundation for Blind has an incredible website. Uh, and all you really have to do is type in "HK archive" or "Keller archive," or "Helen Keller archive", your Google search, and it'll take you straight there and you can set for hours and browse through all of these things that AFB has spent a lot of time and money digitizing and getting online.

Sara:

And Michael, I know there's one thing you're really excited to talk about, and that's the completely new redesigned APH museum website. Can you tell the listeners a little bit more?

Micheal:

Well, yeah, we're launching that , uh, gosh , uh , this week and , um, uh, you know , you're going to be able to search through our entire collection and , uh , look at , uh, hundreds of years of the history of education rehabilitation for people that are blind or visually impaired lot, you know, thousands of photographs and, and , uh, uh, just an amazing , uh , documentary collection. You're also going to be able to do online exhibits. Uh, you're going to be able to look at , um, uh, the history of , uh, uh, the first residential schools. Uh, you're going to be able to look at kind of the whole history of printing and embossing , uh , and different machinery that we've used here at APH. And , and, and this is really just the beginning. We're going to be launching all kinds of resources. You're going to be able to schedule tours to the, to the printing house or to the museum from there. You're going to be able to , um, find out about our educational events , uh , our programs. You're going to be able to sign up for those, all of that's going to be available to you from the new website.

Sara:

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Justin:

I will say that we , we can have visiting researchers in the building to come and go through the archives with me. We've already had one who came from William and Mary to do some research on a book that she was writing. So I'm here to help if , uh, if anyone wants to take the trip to Louisville, she mentioned that among some of the people she's researched with, they have actually said, I think the phrase was if it's still exists, it's in Louisville at this point, cause between the archive bay archive and the Helen Keller archive and the museum archive and the museum collection, we're a very central location with a lot of information. And this researcher had told me that she was going to start sending her students here. So , um, it's a good place to come with. Uh , you know, this, this AFP archive that she used had letters from all over the world, from these organizations who are headquartered in different parts of Europe. So instead of having to hop around to different countries, this is one location has, has things from everywhere.

Sara:

All right. Thank you so much, Michael and Justin for joining us on Change Makers today.

Micheal and Justin:

Thank you, Sara.

Sara:

We'll be sure to include links and the website in the show notes of this podcast. Now we'll shift our focus to products and communicating with individuals who are deaf blind. We have Kentucky School for the Blind Principal, Peggy Sinclair-Morris here to tell us a bit more, hello, Peggy, and welcome to Change Makers.

Peggy:

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm glad to be here.

Speaker 2:

Can you tell us how you've seen individuals who are deaf blind incorporate refreshable braille devices into their everyday life?

Peggy:

Yeah, sure. Um, so when I was a teacher of the visually impaired in public schools , um, I had a student who was deaf blind, and he was a fluent braille reader. And , this was 15 years ago. So the refreshable devices looked quite different, but , um , he did use one and he would type on his laptop and then somebody would type on his laptop. And he would read on the braille display what the person who was typing was saying, because he also communicated using ASL American sign language. And so not a lot of people could communicate with him. Um, he used what's called Tactile Sign Language where his hands would be over the person signing over their hands. And so he could have a conversation with , um, an individual who didn't know sign language or braille because they could just communicate using his laptop and the refreshable braille display. But you know, also other individuals with deaf-blindness, they may use it as a community communication tool, but also, you know , as a , a tool to do work, to do schoolwork , um, in a business. So they , they would use it the same way that , um, any individual that was blind or visually impaired would use it, but it has that little added bonus of it can be used as a communication device.

Sara:

And what would you want people to know when communicating with someone who is deaf-blind?

Peggy:

So when communicating with someone with deaf-blind, I think people automatically go to Helen Keller, which, I mean, I , I love Helen Keller , um, but you know, and she communicated using sign language and spelling in her hand. But , um, individuals with deaf-blindness are , are, have different levels of hearing loss, and different levels of vision loss. So some may use American Sign Language use tactile again to having their hands over another individual's hands while they signed to them. They may use , um, objects , schedules, object calendars , um, many people with deaf-blindness use, auditory communication. They talk, they are able to hear enough different kinds of , um, you know, hearing aids, cochlear, implants, different devices. So there folks with deaf-blindness can really be multimodal. There's not just, you have to kind of, sometimes you have to think outside of the box.

Sara:

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Peggy:

Um, so one thing that I learned , uh , several years ago when I was taking some classes on deaf-blindness through , um , Utah State University , um, I really want people to understand that deaf blindness is a disability of access. And so you would say "access to what?", And I would say access to communication. And the important thing is that people with deaf blindness, we need to provide that, that clear and consistent access to communication, whatever that communication mode is, whether again, it's American Sign Language, or total communication talking and signing or pictures or tactile objects, just to really, like I said before, thinking outside of the box.

Sara:

Okay. Peggy, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

Peggy:

Oh, I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for having me

Sara:

And to expand a bit further on refreshable braille devices. APH offers multiple devices ranging from small, medium and large. The smallest one is the Braille Trail Reader, LE. The compact on-the-go 14 high-quality braille cells and eight dot braille input keys allow users to take notes, create, edit, and read texts and braille files. A medium sized refreshable braille device is the Chameleon 20. The Chameleon's 20 cell refreshable braille display and Perkin style keyboard provide a comfortable reading and writing experience. A large size refreshable braille device is the Mantis Q40. The 40 cell refreshable braille display has a QWERTY keyboard and supports up to five Bluetooth connections at once. Along with one USB connection. Other products, aside from the braille devices include the Deaf Blind Pocket Communicator and the Sunu Band. The Deaf Blind Pocket Communicator is no tech and allows users to easily communicate on the, go with its raised lettering. The SUNY band uses radar and haptic feedback along with ultrasonic technology to detect and alert you to navigational obstacles up to 14 feet away. For more information and links on the refreshable brown devices, deaf blind pocket communicator and Sunu Band. Please check the show notes before we go. We have one more special segment in this podcast. This essay titled, "This I believe" was recorded by Jeremiah T. a graduating senior of the Ohio State School for the Blind.

Jeremiah:

I believe in the golden rule and direct communication. This is to treat others how you want to be treated and speak directly with those you have to interact with. I believe in the golden rule because I myself have been treated unfairly before I got in a conflict with my mother about me not answering my, but instead of talking to me, she told another person. She told me that that person told her I was being rude. I asked my mom, why do you only tell your side of the story? I feel that if you're upset with someone, you should talk to them first. So you can understand their side of the story. I have also been in a situation where I have treated someone unfairly. One time a mom asks me what I wanted for dinner. I was really into what I was doing at the time. And then feel like responding to her question. I noticed she was mad when he changed the tone of voice. She said, I'm not going to buy you a suit for graduation or take you to it. At first, I didn't know who was right or who was wrong, but after she explained why she was upset, I could see a point of view in regards to our communication issue. I ended up doing the right thing. I got my mind, right and I relaxed. I apologized, she accepted my apology. It looks like we both have problems with each other. We wouldn't have these problems. If we use the Golden Rule in direct communication. Now I'm going to talk about someone who treats people, how they should be treated. While attending a school, living in a dorm. My first roommate was a very kind person. He was one of the first people I ever saw be nice to everyone. I have ataxia, which is a condition that affects my walking. So I have to use a wheelchair. He would always help me get to where I needed to go without complaining. He would actually volunteer to escort me. He would always greet people with a very nice voice and a smile. I remember the one time my roommate asked me for some advice on how to write a rap song. My mind went blank. I didn't know how to write a rap song. I listened to a lot of music and may beat some times, but never written a song. I wanted to give him good advice, but I had no experience writing songs. So I had to think about my response for a second. I know that from a creative perspective, it's best to create from within. So I just told him write what's in your heart. He said, "okay" and then left the room. Even though my roommate never told me if he took my advice, I believe I communicated with my roommate effectively. I figured since my roommate asked for my assistance, I should do my best to provide quality suggestions. I believe you should give back to those who give to you. In conclusion, I believe that through my experiences, I'm constantly learning how to practice the Golden rule in direct communication.

Speaker 2:

We hope you have enjoyed today's podcast links to the items mentioned in the show can be found in the show notes. Thank you again for listening and be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.