At the start of the 20th century Perkins Institution relocates to a new campus designed specifically for its’ students and expands it’s advocacy and teacher training internationally. The school continues to provide and facilitate education and vocational training to people who are blind or visually impaired including adults and low vision students.
1907: Ophthalmia neonatorum
1907: Ophthalmia neonaturum was one of the most common causes of blindness in the 19th century, affecting 20-40% of students.
Silver nitrate was explored as an option beginning in the mid 1880s. This solution was applied to a baby’s eyes shortly after birth. In 1900, the American Medical Association studied options in detail. Many states then established laws requiring treatment of all babies with silver nitrate solution.
This treatment dramatically changed schools for the blind. By 1915 only one student was admitted to Perkins who was blind due to ophthalmia neonatorum.
In Massachusetts, silver nitrate treatment was provided free to all doctors beginning in 1910, and additional laws were passed about reporting eye infections and blindness. Modern babies are still routinely treated, though safer medications are now used instead.
1910: Watertown Land Purchase
1910: A new campus is purchased and built on 38 acres, the Stickney Estate, on the banks of the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts, the School's current site.
Contract was signed on December 31, 1910. Work started immediately.
1911 First Librarian
1911: Sarah Elizabeth Lane was the first librarian at Perkins. She began working in 1880, when the library had 4,590 volumes. By the time she retired in 1911, there were 16,872.
At the time, the Library had just moved to a new building in South Boston. It housed the first circulating library for readers who were blind anywhere in the United States.
There was a need for books in accessible formats. Miss Lane wrote an article in 1881 that includes: “Do you think we shall ever have books of biography and travel, etc, printed in our type?” Read the entire letter at the Internet Archive.
Did you know? Miss Lane was librarian and proof reader at Perkins for thirty years, and treasurer of the Ladies’ Auxiliary Society for seventeen (including managing donations for the kindergarten). She wrote a history of the Howe Memorial Press. She was described as “quietly unobtrusive, pleasantly accommodating, accurate, capable, and loyal”
1912 New Location
The new location opens in Watertown with the goal of increasing the quality of service to students, not the number of students.
Perkins accepts a few low vision students and urges the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind to persuade the Boston School Board to form special classes for these students.
The Perkins Mission this year is “the training of blind boys and girls to live lives of happiness and efficiency, both in the institution and in the world."