Blind in Art Finding Aid

Samuel P. Hayes Research Library
Perkins School for the Blind
175 N. Beacon Street
Watertown, MA 02472



Date Range: 
1700s-1980s, bulk 1880-1910
Call number: 

This collection consists of reproduction prints, posters, photographs, clippings and a few original art objects relating to the depiction of the blind in art.  The collection is heavily European, with French, English, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, and Italian art with some sections from the United States, Japan, India, and Peru. Subjects include famous individuals with visual impairments, mythological characters, biblical characters, educational communities that serve the blind, Latin American ceramics, depictions of “the blind leading the blind”, blind beggars or mendicants, blind musicians, seeing eye dogs, political cartoons about visual impairments and other topics relating to the history of blindness, stereotypes, and depictions from other aspects of popular culture and the media. 

21 linear feet
Processed by: 

Processed by Molly Stothert-Maurer, 2012. 

Biographical/Historical notes: 

Perkins is the oldest school for the blind in the United States.  Since its incorporation in 1829, it has had a number of different names, as well as various locations in the greater Boston area.  Under the leadership of its first director, Samuel Gridley Howe, the New England Asylum for the Blind opened its doors in August of 1832 at 140 Pleasant Street in Boston. In 1833 the school moved to a house on Pearl Street that had been donated by Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a wealthy merchant and philanthropist.  Perkins later allowed the property to be sold to enable the school to purchase a former hotel in South Boston, and the school moved there in May 1839.  In recognition of his generosity, the Board of Trustees named the school the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind.  In 1887, the second director of Perkins, Michael Anagnos, founded the first kindergarten for the blind, located in Jamaica Plain.  The school moved to its current location in Watertown in 1912, where it is located on a 38.5 acre property on the banks of the Charles River.

Throughout its history, Perkins has attracted visitors from around the world.  One of its first prominent guests was Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842 and wrote about the experience in his book American Notes.  This book caught the attention of Helen Keller’s mother, and prompted her to contact the school in search of assistance to educate her daughter.  

Credit line/Citation: 
Blind in Art Collection. Perkins School for the Blind.

43 boxes

Container List: 

Box 1: Louis Dulon, bound volume , 3 prints

Box 2: John Milton, bound volume (some loose items)

Box 3: Henry Fawcett, bound volume

Box 4: Nicholas Saunderson, bound volume

Box 5: Typen von der blinden Kindern, photographs of blind students with a range of emotional expressions, by Alexander Mell, in bound volume

Box 6: Tobias, bound volume

Box 7: Colored Pictures of the Blind, bound volume. Many Political cartoons from French and German periodicals: L'Assiette au Beurre and Simplicissimus

Box 8: Nicholas Bacon, bound volume

Box 9: Madame du Deffand, bound volume

Box 10: John Stanley, bound volume

Box 11: Portraits, bound volume

Box 12: Bourdaloue, bound volume

Box 13: James Holman, bound volume

Box 14: Misc. Pictures, Vol. II, bound volume

Box 15: William Hickling Prescott, bound volume

Box 16: Valentin Haüy, bound volume

Box 17: Leonard Euler, bound volume

Box 18: Blind Characters from the Bible, bound volume

Box 19: Homer, bound volume

Box 20: Ossian, bound volume

Box 21: Blind Players on Musical Instruments, bound volume

Box 22: Oedipus, bound volume

Box 23: Misc. Pictures, Vol. I, bound volume

Box 24: Christ Healing the Blind, bound volume

Box 25: George III, King of England, bound volume

Box 26: Belisarius, bound volume

Box 27: Samson, bound volume

Box 28: The Blind Fiddler, Wilkie, bound volume

Box 29: Elymas the Sorcerer, bound volume

Box 30: Institutions for the Blind, bound volume

Box 31: Johan Zizka, bound volume

Box 32: Blind Boys in India, bound volume

Box 33: Misc. Pictures, Vol. III, bound volume

Box 34: The Blind Girl, Millais, bound volume

Box 35: labeled “King Bela, Einar Nielson artist? Cliff Ostrom’s bio pictures”,  box with 28 items

Box 36: Misc., 14 items

Box 37: Misc., 24 items

Box 38: Misc., 35 items

Box 39: Misc., 88 items

Box 40: Misc., 18 sleeved items in makeshift enclosure with brown paper

Box 41:  one framed piece

Box 42: Oversized poster/prints in make-shift enclosure of brown paper, cardboard and foam core.

Box 43: Smallest items, 8 folders

Unknown. Greatly enhanced by former Perkins director Michael Anagnos- especially through a friendship with the director of a school for the blind in Vienna named Alexander Mell.
Subject Headings: 

Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind.
Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Kindergarten for the Blind.
Perkins School for the Blind.
Perkins School for the Blind--History.

Copyright © Perkins School for the Blind