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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Helen Selsdon

Archivist

Areas of Expertise:

  • Helen Keller
  • History of Talking Book Productions
  • Archival management and exhibits

Helen Selsdon is the archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind. She manages the Helen Keller Archives and the Talking Book collection and is responsible for overseeing donations of archival items to the American Foundation for the Blind.

Selsdon manages a collection of more than 80,000 personal documents, photographs, press clippings, scrapbooks, and memorabilia bequeathed by Helen Keller to AFB. She joined AFB in 2002 to reorganize and preserve this collection and increase the public's access to it through AFB's web site. A main thrust of this initiative was made possible by a federal grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Under this grant she created an online guide to the collection, known as an Encoded Archival Description (EAD), which is fully accessible to blind and visually impaired people. This guide includes a "Scope and Content Note," which describes the intellectual importance of the materials and selects items of particular interest for historians and researchers. Selsdon has derived an intimate knowledge of Helen Keller's life and her work for the blind as a result of her work on this project. Her knowledge enabled her to write and curate two online museums: the Helen Keller Kid's Museum, and the Anne Sullivan Macy: Miracle Worker web site, an exploration of the life of Helen Keller's teacher. The latter received a "Webby" official honoree award in January 2006.

She is currently arranging and describing the Talking Book archives under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. These materials include papers, photographs and equipment that describe the history of the production of Talking Books at AFB from its inception in the 1930s. An important part of this project is the creation of an online administrative tool that will allow archivists to create guides to collections and house these electronic catalogues all in one place.

Prior to her work at AFB, Selsdon worked as an archival consultant, and created archival collections for organizations as diverse as Pfizer pharmaceutical company, the Chapin School for Girls, and a private family collection in Manhattan. Selsdon first became interested in archival work in 1988 when she worked as an assistant to the archivist at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in London, England.

Selsdon earned a Certificate in Archival Management and a Master's in History from New York University in 1994.


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