Helen Selsdon has served as the archivist for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) since 2002. She manages the Helen Keller Archive, the Talking Book Archive, the AFB Archive, and the M. C. Migel Rare Book collection. She serves as a grant writer and spokesperson for AFB’s historical collections.

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Women's Suffrage Celebration: Exploring the Activism of Helen Keller

August 18, 2021
A year ago today, the United States celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This federal amendment prohibits denying citizens the right to vote based on sex. In effect, recognizing a woman’s right to vote. Last summer, AFB commemorated that event with a talk in conjunction with the Planting Fields Foundation by AFB archivist Helen Selsdon. Images from the digital Helen Keller Archive – including letters, photographs…

Free and Accessible Helen Keller Archive Lesson Plans for Distance Learning

June 15, 2020
"Education should train the child to use his brains, to make for himself a place in the world and maintain his rights even when it seems that society would shove him into the scrap-heap." -Helen Keller, "Going Back to School," The Home Magazine, September 1934 As AFB’s archivist since 2002, I have had the honor to lead the charge to organize, preserve, and digitize Helen Keller’s massive archive, and to make the collection freely available around the globe. The digital Helen Keller Archive…
Author Helen Selsdon
Blog Topics Helen Keller, Education

A Window into Anne Sullivan Macy in Light of Her Birthday

April 14, 2020
This head and shoulders photographic portrait of Anne Sullivan Macy shows her in profile, circa 1920. Anne's thick, glossy hair is short and waved. She is wearing a dark, embroidered V-neck garment with a light-colored blouse or collar underneath. The collar appears to be fastened with a decorative pin. She has a strand of pearls around her neck.
Side-view portrait of Anne Sullivan Macy, circa 1920
Happy 154th Birthday, Anne Sullivan Macy! In light of this special occasion, we took a field trip deep into the digital Helen Keller Archive to unearth a lesser-known story of Helen's brilliant teacher... In the Fall of 1916, Anne Sullivan Macy, then 50, became ill with pleurisy. By the end of that year, Macy was recuperating in Puerto Rico, and Helen remained in her hometown of Tuscumbia, Alabama. This separation resulted in a correspondence between the two women. Relatively few letters…
Author Helen Selsdon
Blog Topics Helen Keller

Seven Blind Women You Should Know About for Women's History Month

March 27, 2020
March is Women’s History Month, typically a time to encourage the celebration and study of the vital role of women in American history. But this year, parents and teachers around the world are confronting uniquely challenging circumstances, as schools face unprecedented closures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At AFB, we have pulled together some accessible online resources that honor 7 blind women whose lives span from 1829 to 1985, and whose histories are largely forgotten. We…

Making Helen Keller's Legacy Even More Accessible

October 10, 2019
Helen Selsdon speaking at the event celebrating AFB's archival collections moving to APH museum
Helen Selsdon, AFB archivist, speaking at the announcement event
Yesterday, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was proud to announce that we will be partnering with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to expand public access to the Helen Keller Archival Collection and the archives of AFB. AFB is loaning its historic collections to the APH Museum, making Louisville, Kentucky, an important center for the study of the history of blindness and disabilities in the United States. Thanks to generous support from the National Endowment for the…
Author Helen Selsdon
Blog Topics

Fabulous New Objects in the Helen Keller Archive

August 13, 2019
Copper vase inlaid with silver carp and cherry blossoms, gift from the City of Hiroshima. November 13, 1947
Copper vase inlaid with silver carp and cherry blossoms, gift from the City of Hiroshima. November 13, 1947
Over 180 totally gorgeous items can be seen for the very first time! Captured in over 1,200 fully accessible digital images, these 2D and 3D items in the Helen Keller Archive provide an alternative lens with which to view Helen Keller’s extraordinary life. Beautiful artifacts, oversize documents, and photograph albums are now there for all to see. The items include treasures like... Keller’s 1904 Bachelor of Arts Degree Certificate from Radcliffe College—Keller was the first deafblind…

Tactile Treasures in the Helen Keller Archive

July 9, 2019
P. O. Box 455 Talladega, Ala. April 28, 1954  Dear Miss Keller,  We have heard that you are coming to Alabama in May, and we wish to invite you to visit our school while you are in this state. We have heard of the work you are doing and would like to meet you and have you talk to us, if only for a few minutes.  Very truly yours, Cora Dell Booker. Eighth Grade School for Negro Blind
Invitation written in braille by 8th grader Cora Dell Booker inviting Keller to speak at her school, 1954
Circa 1821-1825, Louis Braille mastered the now-famous braille-dot code enabling blind and visually impaired individuals to read and enjoy the same wealth of knowledge as their sighted peers. As we’ve discovered during the Helen Keller Archive digitization project, humans always seem to find original ways to create methods with which to communicate. Fabulous examples of embossed items are scattered throughout the collection. Check these out: Letter written to Keller by Lucille Nurre in 1967…

Helen Keller on Independence Day, 1942

July 4, 2019
CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER  SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 1942  MISS HELEN KELLER, whose brave fight to overcome the handicaps of the blind, deaf and dumb has become an American saga, examines a bust of herself by the world-famous sculptor, Jo Davidson. The photograph was taken in Davidson’s studio near Philadelphia.
Helen Keller examines a bust of herself by the world-famous sculptor, Jo Davidson. The photograph was taken in Davidson’s studio near Philadelphia.
During the 1940s, Helen Keller corresponded from her home in Westport, Connecticut with her good friend Clare Heineman in Chicago. One letter, written by Keller on Independence Day 1942 is particularly wonderful and classically Helen Keller – sweeping in its subject matter and passionate in its descriptions of how she physically experienced the world around her. The letter begins with gratitude for a 62nd birthday gift from Heineman. She writes that she will use the gift to purchase and plant…

The Helen Keller Archive: 176,000 Digital Images and Counting!

June 25, 2019
Cake covered in flowers and a quotation celebrating Helen Keller's birthday
Birthday cake inscribed with "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." ~Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born 139 years ago today! Keller worked for AFB for 44 years. Within that time, and after her death in 1968, AFB amassed an enormous trove of materials by and about her. This extraordinary collection is a goldmine of social, political, and cultural history. It also presents a unique opportunity to teach and learn about Keller’s life, the times in which she lived, the history of disabilities, and the importance of universal accessibility. As a result of generous funding from…

Helen Keller and Disability History: Taking It to the Classroom

June 19, 2019
Photograph of students playing and learning in a kindergarten class at a school for students who are blind, Australia. 1948
Photograph of students playing and learning in a kindergarten class at a school for students who are blind, Australia. 1948
AFB’s mission to bring Helen Keller’s inspiring legacy to a global audience took a massive step forward with the Helen Keller Archive digitization project. Begun in 2015, over 176,000 digital images are now available at one’s fingertips. One of the project’s goals is to make the digital archive a stellar educational tool. Last summer, at a party celebrating the launch of the archive, our archivist introduced the digital archive to visually impaired 5th graders at the New York Institute for…
Author Helen Selsdon
Blog Topics Helen Keller