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AFB Migel Memorial Collection

For over ninety years, the AFB Migel Memorial Collection has been providing researchers, practitioners, students, and consumers with a centralized source of materials related to blindness and visual impairment.  A reference library for the field was a priority of the American Foundation for the Blind’s first director, Robert Irwin.  In 1926, the AFB board granted him $1,000 to start the collection.  Materials were donated from around the country, and the library grew so rapidly that AFB was able to hire a full time librarian, Helga Lende, in 1929.  The publication of Lende’s Books About the Blind in 1940, gave a good sense of not only the popular literature being collected, but also many unpublished masters’ and doctoral theses in the Migel holdings.

The Library was named after philanthropist Moses Charles Migel (1866-1958) in 1963.  Inspired by his work with blinded soldiers during service with the Red Cross in World War I, Migel helped found AFB in 1921 and headed their board until 1945. By the time Helga Lende retired in 1964, the library had become one of the largest collections in the world of its kind.  In 2009, the stacks were transferred from AFB to the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, KY. At APH, the Migel Collection continues Irwin’s dream of a comprehensive collection assembled as a service to the field.

The Migel Collection contains materials on aging, O&M, education, and rehabilitation. It also includes fictional titles with visually impaired characters or authors, books on Helen Keller, children’s books, and AFB publications dating back to the 1920s. The Library contains approximately 22,000 volumes, including current titles and out-of-print and historic titles.

The  APH Library catalog was online by October of 2010.  That same year, a digitization project began with Internet Archive and Open Library. Because of Internet Archive’s work providing formats such as Daisy, EPub, PDF, and read-aloud full-text, these items are accessible to print-disabled users all over the world. Additionally, APH was awarded an $11,000 grant from the H.W. Wilson foundation to purchase a Table Top Scribe (TTS) in 2014.  It enables books to be placed in a supportive, v-shaped cradle for  in-house digitization.  All digitized materials are accessible at https://archive.org/details/aphmigel.

Research held in the Migel Collection clearly reflected the significant historical role that music has played in the lives, education, and livelihoods of the visually impaired. But research determined that no organization had developed a collection of works by musicians who were visually impaired. In 2015, the H.W. Wilson Foundation again awarded APH a grant that was used to create the only known collection of music and literature created by and about musicians who are visually impaired.  The Blind Musicians Collection includes audio recordings of and books about musicians who are visually impaired. Patrons and music lovers can listen to the works of hundreds of artists that are represented in the collection.  Additionally, the “Blind Musicians, APH Migel Collection” playlist has been created on Spotify for listeners to follow anywhere in the world.