Thursday, March 6, 2008

CNN: Rare Helen Keller photo discovered

This photograph, taken in July 1888 in Brewster, Mass., is supposedly the earliest photo of Helen Keller, 8-years-old at the time, and her famous teacher, Annie Sullivan. This is also the only picture showing Keller with one of her beloved dolls, which was the first word she learned to finger spell.

According to The AP report on the CNN web site, the photograph was hidden about 100 years in an album belonging to the family of Thaxter Spencer, an 87-year-old Waltham, Mass., man. Spencer's mother had known Keller as a child, and when he donated a collection of family photo albums to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Helen Keller photo was discovered.

Helen Keller scholars say the discovery is an important one. "It's really one of the best images I've seen in a long, long time," said Helen Selsdon, an archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind, where Keller worked for more than 40 years. "This is just a huge visual addition to the history of Helen and Annie."

Selsdon told The AP, "the photograph is valuable because it shows many elements of Keller's childhood: that devotion, Sullivan's push to teach Helen outdoors and Helen's attachment to her baby dolls, one of which was given to her upon Sullivan's arrival as her teacher."

"It's a beautiful composition," Selsdon said. "It's not even the individual elements. It's the fact that it has all of the components."