The Perkins Archives house institutional records as well as collections documenting the history of education for people with blindness or deafblindness.
The Perkins Archives program supports the mission of Perkins and the Samuel P. Hayes Research Library by preserving and providing access to its historical records and collections.
Perkins archivists care for a wide variety of materials, including photographs, documents, tactile objects, films, audio recordings and books–in both print and braille. The collection is local, national and international in scope. Through archival practices and preservation efforts—particularly digitization—the Perkins Archives continues to make its collections available and accessible to the public.
Perkins pioneered the work of educating students who are blind and deafblind. The first school for the blind chartered in the United States, Perkins has remained a leader in the field for nearly 180 years. The Perkins Archives document both the evolution of these fields of knowledge and of the gradual inclusion of people with visual impairments into mainstream society.
Many of the discoveries and achievements that fueled those changes occurred at Perkins—the first child with deafblindness to be formally educated, the first kindergarten for children who are blind, one of the first mechanical writing devices and the first lending library of tactile books.
No other American institution is as closely connected to these changes as Perkins. Thanks to institutional collecting practices begun in the 19th century, Perkins Archives holds and makes available unique collections that are essential in tracing the arc of that development all over the world.
Explore a variety of materials stored in the Perkins Archives, many of which have been digitized and made available online.
The Perkins Archives stewards collections in a variety of formats. Finding aids are guides to these collections to aid in research.
Digitized and described collections, that include photographs, photographed artifacts, and scanned manuscripts with transcription.
Links to online resources from the Perkins Archives related to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Digitized collections that include periodicals and annual reports, correspondence, journals and manuscripts, books and other published works, and scrapbooks of clippings.
The Perkins Museum tells the story of Perkins and traces the history of educating students who are blind or deafblind. A virtual version of museum content is available.
Information about our policies, including how to use our images and request digitization or scanning, our collection development, and access policies, and our digital preservation plan.
Thomas Wiggins (1819-1910) was a musical prodigy, born blind and into slavery. Despite the odds, he would become a popular performer that likely could be identified as an “autistic savant” today. Wiggins’ race and disabilities, however, were used as a means of control and exploitation that left him legally at the mercy of enslavers, managers, and court-appointed wards his entire life. Subsequently he is often referred to as the United States’ last slave.
Learn more about the people, places, and events that have shaped Perkins since 1829 from the Perkins Archives team.
Explore some of our favorite and most recommended historical resources.
The Perkins Archives has a variety of resources available on Perkins.org/archives and on other digital platforms. This guide is designed to help you navigate the platforms more easily and facilitate optimal research results.
Information about the history of education for students with blindness and deafblindness and related programs and innovations
An online exhibit about the Perkins contribution to relief efforts following the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
Learn about the latest processed collection with the finding aid for the Theater performances photographs collection.
Explore a collection of described and transcribed photographs and clippings related to the projects the WPA and Perkins collaborated on during the Great Depression.
Read the latest issue of the Perkins Archives Newsletter emailed quarterly.
The Perkins Archives Newsletter is a quarterly update on our activities, special projects, and more. It is a great way to find out about the latest processed collections and newly digitized materials, and to learn more about the items and stories that can be found in these collections.
Dr. Elisabeth Gitter Author of The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl
“To describe the historical materials at Perkins as a national treasure is no exaggeration: these letters and journals delineate the development of America’s awareness of the needs and capabilities of the disabled and a vision for their integration into the larger society.”
We are glad to help. Please visit the Hayes Research Library’s School Project Resources page to get started.
We are glad to help. Please contact the Research Library to get started. It helps us to know:
Visit our Donations to Archives page for more information about what we collect and contact us at [email protected] to discuss.
Join us on Instagram to see more of our collection every week! Follow @PerkinsArchives on Instagram to learn more about the items and stories in our collections.