The Valentin Haüy Museum and Library

The history of blindness and how it was represented in France and beyond, as well as how the blind were regarded and their struggle for access to culture, education and full citizenship are recounted through the objects and works in the Valentin Haüy Museum and the Valentin Haüy heritage library.

The Valentin Haüy Museum

The history of the blind and of the methods that gave them access to culture.

Edgard Guilbeau created the Valentin Haüy Museum in 1886. Blind from an early age, he was a teacher at the National Institute for the Young Blind (INJA). He sought to collect items made by or for the blind. Maurice de La Sizeranne, also a teacher at the Institute and also blind from an early age, set up the Valentin Haüy association in 1889 and incorporated his friend’s exhibition.

Since then, the collection has continually expanded, recounting the struggle for the visually impaired to be recognised, a struggle initiated by Valentin Haüy, who set up the very first school for the blind in 1785.

The Valentin Haüy Museum is no ordinary museum in the sense that its field of research – visual impairment and those who bear it – lies in the domain of difference. Beyond the items on display and the light they shed on the history of changing attitudes, what is at stake here is the status of each human being and of what makes him or her different. The struggle for autonomy of this specific minority exemplifies all the struggles led, from exclusion to integration, in the name of freedom.

On the occasion of the 7th General Assembly of the World Blind Union, a tactile exhibition devoted to Louis Braille was held in Geneva from the 21st to the 23rd August 2008.

The museum provided tactile exhibits tracing the major stages in Louis Braille’s life, with nine original items and four copies for the public to acquaint themselves with.

The Valentin Haüy Library

A heritage library

The Valentin Haüy Library is a heritage library devoted to blindness and visual impairment. It boasts many thousand books in “standard text”, that is to say printed in normal characters, in contrast to braille books.

The Library caters to all those interested in the history of blindness.

It comprises a unique collection of several thousand books, French and foreign reviews and miscellaneous documents, some of which are extremely old, all related to blindness and visual impairment. It stocks pure literature (novels, biographies, essays, poetry and drama) written by blind authors, books written by the sighted about the blind, various works dealing with psychology, education, everyday life, art, religion, history, medicine, social issues and handicaps in general.

The Library also holds manuscripts. It is a veritable record of the evolution of the condition of the blind over virtually three centuries.

The Valentin Haüy Library does not lend out books but can, where feasible, supply photocopies.

Informations et Renseignements :
Noëlle Roy
Curator of the Valentin Haüy Museum and Head of the Valentin Haüy Library
Tél. : 01 44 49 27 27 poste 22 30

Japanese visitors to the Valentin Haüy Museum - deep feelings shard.

Braille users make up a family on a planetary scale. They owe a deep debt to Louis Braille, their “founding father” and many of them undertake a pilgrimage to pay homage to him.

Among them is Yoshiharu Horikoshi. A linguist and specialist in Western literature, he lectures at the most famous universities in Tokyo. His journey had been planned several months previously and he came from Japan to visit the Valentin Haüy Museum on Tuesday 29th March 2011, barely a fortnight after the tsunami that ravaged his country. He was accompanied by Toshikazu Yamamoto, a sighted university colleague, a psychologist and lecturer in the Department of Education of the Osaka-Kyoiku University.

Brian Edmonds, an English-speaker who is quite familiar with the Museum, was present to act as translator, since the visitors speak very few words of French.

The visit was touching, in both senses of the word. Our visitors are always moved when they can place their hands on the items dating from Louis Braille’s time. But also because Brian had brought along a student he helps in her research, Marion, who lost her sight relatively recently, and who is studying sociology and Japanese. Thus she was able to welcome Mr Horikoshi and Mr Yamamoto in their mother tongue. At the same time, she discovered our Museum, which is often better known to foreigners that to the French. Yoshiharu Horikoshi had come on the recommendation of his friend Kojiro Hirose, an anthropologist, head of tactile exhibitions in the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, also blind, who had visited the Museum in 2008 in the run-up to the Bicentenary Celebrations.

On the same day, Mr Horikoshi and Mr Yamamoto went to the nearby National Institute for the Young Blind; naturally the Louis Braille Museum in Coupvray was also on their agenda. Together with lecturers and students of the Osaka-Kyoiku University, they are both members of a group that launched the “Light on Design Project”, whose aim is to foster the fulfilment of visually impaired children through the practise of fine arts, a source of pleasure and joy. The numerous photographs taken on their visit to the Museum will, it is hoped, be part of this enterprise.

These exchanges were moments of highly-charged emotion. We wish to thank our Japanese visitors for their gesture, strengthening the bond between our two countries.

Noëlle Roy, curator