Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a $295,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). AFB will use the funds to complete a project to fully digitize Helen Keller’s archival collection online and make the collection accessible to website visitors who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing, and deaf-blind.
AFB’s Helen Keller Archival Collection is the largest collection of materials by and about Helen Keller in the world, featuring 80,000 items in the collection. The NEH funds will specifically enable AFB to digitize and disseminate press clippings and scrapbooks, which are the most fragile items to handle and have been closed to researchers and the public. Among the materials that will be digitized and made accessible utilizing these funds are three large scrapbooks compiled by Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy.
“Helen Keller was a trailblazer and we must continue to recognize her incredible leadership and groundbreaking contributions to society,” said Senator Schumer. “Digitizing her archives does just that by sharing Keller’s tireless dedication to activism and equality with a new generation. This new vital funding helps us preserve her legacy, and makes Keller’s work accessible to the everyone including the very community she fought for. I am proud to announce this funding that will ensure that people around the world can continue to be inspired by Keller’s story of perseverance and achievement.”
“I can think of no better way to honor Helen Keller than by ensuring that her work is accessible to everyone,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Helen Keller was a leading example for those in the disabled community, a tireless political activist, and a dedicated humanitarian. Her incredible work inspired many, and this collection will serve as a valuable resource to historians, researchers, students, and others who want to learn about her extraordinary life and contributions to the world.”
“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, American Foundation for the Blind 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.”
The funding for this project was provided by NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant program, which supports projects that provide an essential underpinning for scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities. NEH grants are highly competitive and involve a peer-review process to ensure that the projects represent the highest level of humanities quality and public engagement. More information can be found here.