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.

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...

by Elizabeth Emerson

Thanks in large part to the Helen Keller Archive at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), I have been fortunate to be able to come to know—almost 100 years later—my great-great grandfather, Joseph Edgar (Ed) Chamberlin, his wife Ida, their children, and their life.

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.

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.

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.

On June 15, 1917, the US Congress passed the Espionage Act, and that same day anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were arrested and sent to prison. The following year, Goldman wrote to Helen Keller from prison. Her penciled letter begins as if she were writing to Helen Keller from her home: “Beloved Comrade I am terribly sorry I did not get the chance to see you again.

Last week, we asked you to join us in exploring the Helen Keller Archive and sharing the treasures you found during your online journey. Thanks to all of you who participated in the event! Of course, AFB staff was excited to dig into the digital archive and show a few of the fascinating artifacts their searches uncovered. We hope you enjoy these letters, gifts, and photographs from the fascinating life of Helen Keller.

Please visit the Helen Keller Archive today between 12:00 and 12:30pm U.S. Eastern time. Our goal is to have a large number of visitors test the site’s ability to handle heavy traffic. So we need as many of you out there as possible to take a few minutes and enjoy the treasure trove that is the Helen Keller digital archive!

On Wednesday May 29 at 12pm U.S. Eastern, we encourage you to explore all of the great things the archive has to offer, and help to test how well the archive handles heavy traffic. There are thousands of letters, photographs, maps, artifacts, and more just waiting to be discovered in the Helen Keller Archive. Here’s how you can help: