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Books without ink, exhibit opens Sept 18

September 15, 2015 — 

Books Without Ink: Blindness, Reading and Writing 1830-1930, a new exhibit in Archives & Special Collections curated by associate professor Vanessa Warne and graduate student Sabrina Mark, opens on Sept. 18 at 3 p.m.

The exhibit allows visitors to explore the history of books made by and for blind readers: books printed without ink and designed to be read by touch.

“We’re in a complex moment for print-disabled people’s access to books — for their right to reading experiences that aren’t mediated by computers and digitized voices or even by good old fashioned audio books” Warne says. “I had the pleasure of working on this with student researcher Sabrina Marks, an MA grad of our department and my co-curator. Together we hope the exhibit will get Winnipegers thinking about the amazing innovation that is Books Without Ink and we hope that exploring this history might prompt us to appreciate the value of today’s braille books and of the skills needed to read them.”

The exhibit, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, features the U of M’s collection of fragile inkless books and artifacts loaned by private collectors and archives of blind people’s history in Canada and the United States.

Books without ink posterBooks Without Ink is about innovators and leaders, many of them blind people, who came up with the idea of printing inkless books. It’s a little bit about braille but a lot about a series of now obsolete alphabets for blind people. The exhibit showcases some fascinating writing machines as well as photographs and maps for blind users.

At the heart of the exhibit, there will be a touch table with artifacts, including a map made of nail heads and a very old Hall Braille writer, which visitors can use to write their own braille message.

“We’re also excited about a contemporary art installation that is part of the exhibit by a visiting artist, Philadelphia-based, library-focused artist Teresa Jaynes,” Warne says. “Teresa has made a very thought-provoking piece that is mounted on a desk, that one sits at and examines by touch while wearing headphones…. Taken as a whole, we hope this special exhibit will raise awareness about the right to read – not just the history of blindness and reading but also present-day issues around accessibility.”

 

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