Extensive digitization of tactile map collection

Over 100 maps from the 1830's to the 1960's have just been added to the Perkins Archives digital map collection.

Maps from left to right feature the streets of Boston, Great Britain and Wales, Lake Michigan and Surrounding States, the Arctic, the streets of Vienna, examples of physical features, the British Isles, and The United States.

​Over 100 maps from the 1830’s to the 1960’s have just been added to the Perkins Archives digital map collection on Flickr. They showcase an array of materials and approaches used to teach geography to students with visual impairments. These maps include physical and political maps of countries and the world in addition to building grounds, city streets and floor plans. The collection features atlases, models and single maps. Materials used include metal, wood and paper.

Some of the maps were created for use by the blind, some are adapted for use, and others are commercial products that contain topographic and embossed elements that are meaningful to users with visual impairments.

Tactile embossed maps

Examples of tactile maps designed to instruct children with visual impairments can be found in the earliest embossed books produced at Perkins. A sample page from the Atlas of the United States printed in 1837, featured below, is just such an example. Showing Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and modern day Texas labeled “Part of Mexico,” this map relies on embossed topographical features and raised roman type. Because it was printed at Perkins, the raised type used was Boston Line Type.

Embossed topographical map

Modified maps

Examples of a tactile maps modified for use by the blind take many forms often showcasing a range of creativity and ingenuity. The example provided below is of a map of Boston that has been mounted onto a thick board, cut out, and glued onto a green colored board. Streets, wharves, and some landmarks stand above the background. The map was created by Stephen Preston Ruggles circa 1830.

Raised map of Boston

Tactile maps

Examples of a tactile maps designed to instruct children without visual impairments were produced by K.R. Klemm in the late 1800’s. As noted by Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures & Contexts, in Printed Tactile Maps, Klemm “produced ​printed tactile maps in addition to other educational materials to engage sighted students kinesthetically, an educational strategy about which he learned in Europe and one that was successful for teaching the blind.” Klemm’s Relief Practice Map of North America, circa 1894 and featured below, is a raised relief map on thick paper with embossed roman print. Mountains and waterways are predominately featured.

Map of North America embossed

Explore more of the tactile map collection on Flickr

Work cited

“Printed Tactile Maps,” Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures & Contexts, accessed July 12, 2016,

Suggested citation

Hale, Jen. “Extensive digitization of Tactile Maps Collection.” Perkins Archives Blog, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown MA. July 12, 2016.