From AER O&M Division Newsletter, Winter 2011
Celebrated Opening of O&M Archives!
Report of the AER O&M Division Archives Committee: Rick Welsh Chair
In October, we celebrated the formal opening of the C. Warren Bledsoe Orientation and Mobility Archives at the new home at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. This marked a significant milestone in the development of the archives for our profession. A few years ago, we had reached a crossroads when an evaluation of the archives by a professional archivist spelled out what we had to do if we hoped to be able to sustain the archives. It looked impossible. But through some extreme good fortune and the interest and support of the American Printing House and its Museum Director, Mike Hudson, our archives are now housed in a professional quality facility and managed by professionals with the appropriate background.
The celebration in October was made very special by the presence of some special guests. Warren Bledsoe's two daughters, Hester Butterfield and Virgina Bledsoe, their husbands, and Warren's grandson joined us as did Mrs. Wanda Suterko, her daughter and her grandson. This connected all of us to our history in a very personal way and also communicated to these families the continuing respect with which we hold and honor those who started our profession. The photo to the right shows Mrs. Suterko, her daughter and grandson viewing the O&M exhibit in the APH Museum with O&M Division Chair, Marjie Wood.
The celebration also has provided the Archives Committee with the incentive to begin the next phase of the development of the Archives. Our next challenge is to encourage the contribution to the archives of the papers and materials from those who are retiring from the profession. Many of those who were the first students in the original university training programs have reached retirement age. Many are down-sizing their possessions and homes and are making decisions about papers that they have used and collected during their careers. The job facing the committee will be to develop criteria for the kinds of things that should be contributed to the Archives and to circulate these criteria to all members of the professions and to encourage them to consider donating their papers to us.
The members of the committee are Rod Kossick of California, Duane Geruschat, Dona Sauerburger, and Linda Starner of Maryland, and Jim Newcomer and Rick Welsh of Pennsylvania. If you have any questions or suggestions about the Archives or the kinds of materials that we are collecting, please feel free to contact Rick Welsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 412-367-9085 or any of the members of the committee.
O&M Archives - A Personal Perspective
By Dona Sauerburger
The opening of the O&M archives was a very moving experience for me. I have been involved with the Archives since 1985, when we worked with Warren Bledsoe to organize and move his extraordinary collection of letters and documents to The Maryland School for the Blind. In 1994, just a few months before he died, Butch Hill accepted an invitation from Warren to go through the Archives. After a week of reading hundreds of letters, he was struck by two things: his own mortality when realizing that the people who wrote the letters were no longer alive, and the sense of family that those people shared -- they argued and disagreed but they cared deeply about each other.
In the ensuing years, these papers, letters, poignant stories and personal perspectives of our O&M history have languished in an unsecured room, inaccessible to anyone who couldn't travel to Maryland as Butch did … until the American Printing House for the Blind agreed to take our treasured Archives into its care.
The first glimpse of the beautiful display of the O&M Archives museum (shown at the top of this page with the Suterkos and Marjie Wood) took my breath away.
They have historic videos which you can watch there, a collection of canes and prototypes of electronic travel aids, a harness from one of the first dog guides at the Seeing Eye, and more. In the photos above, I am browsing through a display notebook with fascinating photographs -- shown here is a picture of students at the Seeing Eye from the first O&M class at Boston College.
But the display, as extraordinary as it is, doesn't do justice to what APH has provided. I was moved to tears to see Micheal (Mike) Hudson's love and enthusiasm for the treasures in the O&M archives, as he read us some of his favorite stories that he found in the collection. In the photo to the left he displays a salute to Stanley Suterko written by blinded veteran Stephen Miyagawa, who showed his gratitude for the training he got at Hines VA rehabilitation center by honoring many of our O&M pioneers with salutes preserving their history.
The room in which Mike was standing in the previous photo is a special reading room for the O&M Archives, which is also shown in the photo to the left. Visitor O&M specialist Judy Morris sits at a table with a computer screen, reserved for those who want to read O&M Archives material. They can request the particular documents they want to study, which will be brought to them to peruse at their leisure there in the room. A copy machine is nearby for them to use.
But wait, there's more! In atmospherically-controlled rooms beyond the museum display and reading room is the heart of the Archives. Row after row, shelves beyond shelves are filled with carefully catalogued and organized material, only part of which is shown in the pictures above.
But perhaps the most important part of the O&M Archives is what cannot be seen or touched, but which was felt strongly when we were there. That is the devotion and commitment which APH and Mike are giving to our treasured O&M Archives, and what may yet come. It is their hope that our dream will come true, and the materials buried in the Archives can be made available on line to reach beyond the walls of APH.
Thank you, Mike and APH - thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Photos courtesy of Dona Sauerburger
Return to home page