Tactile pictures of plant specimens, circa 1902

Overview

The Perkins Archives program

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.

history

A legacy of knowledge

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.

Daguerreotype portrait of Laura Bridgman and her last teacher, Sarah Wight circa 1845. Bridgman, aged 16, is signing into Wight’s hand.

Archives resources

Explore a variety of materials stored in the Perkins Archives, many of which have been digitized and made available online.

Librarian Florence J. Worth looking at a card catalog in 1966/\.
Anne Sullivan fingerspells into the hand of a very young Helen Keller in this black and white studio portrait circa 1888. Fingerspelling, a precursor to today’s tactile sign language, is one of many methods Perkins has used over the years to help students who are deafblind connect with the world around them.

Finding aids

The Perkins Archives stewards collections in a variety of formats. Finding aids are guides to these collections to aid in research.

Studio portrait of student Edith Thomas, circa 1880s.

Photograph collections

Digitized and described collections, that include photographs, photographed artifacts, and scanned manuscripts with transcription.

Anne Sullivan fingerspells into the hand of a very young Helen Keller in this black and white studio portrait circa 1888. Fingerspelling, a precursor to today’s tactile sign language, is one of many methods Perkins has used over the years to help students who are deafblind connect with the world around them.
Anne Sullivan fingerspells into the hand of a very young Helen Keller in this black and white studio portrait circa 1888. Fingerspelling, a precursor to today’s tactile sign language, is one of many methods Perkins has used over the years to help students who are deafblind connect with the world around them.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan collections

Links to online resources from the Perkins Archives related to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

Pages from the 1838-1875 Laura Bridgman scrapbook.
Open spread from a scrapbook of clippings about Laura Bridgman. The article from the left from mentions an English woman’s visit with Bridgman. An article on the right titled “Laura Bridgman” features an illustration of her from the bust up wearing her eye sash.

Text collections

Digitized collections that include periodicals and annual reports, correspondence, journals and manuscripts, books and other published works, and scrapbooks of clippings.

Bust of Laura Bridgman in the Deafblind Education exhibit.

Museum

The Perkins Museum tells the story of Perkins and traces the history of educating students who are blind or deafblind, in many disciplines – including reading and writing, geography, math, science, music and sports. 

A person writing at a desk

Policies and forms

Information about our policies, including how to use our images and request digitization or sca