Deciphering a Braille Map: Germany 1901

1.  Perkins School of the Blind, is located in Watertown, Massachusetts, and is the oldest school for the blind in the United States.

2.  Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is based in San Francisco, California and is a nation-wide non-profit devoted to promoting the equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or visually impaired.

3.  National Braille Press is based in Boston, Massachusetts promoting the literacy of blind children through braille and the access to information.

4.  American Modified Braille was a popular braille alphabet used in the Northeastern United States before the adoption of standardized English braille in 1912

The design process usually cycles through search, research, archive, system, network, and narrative. This project specifically highlighted the searching and researching phases of this process. After uncovering an unknown Braille map from the special collections section of the Providence Public Library I set out to decipher this unknown object.

This part of the process, unexpectedly, created a narrative of its own. Working with the Perkins School of the Blind,1 the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired,2 and the National Braille Press3 we successfully translated the map. After much deliberation we found out that the map was set in American Modified Braille,4 a rare version of Braille from pre-1912.

Our collaborative journey to translate a language of the past paralleled the circuitous origins of American Modified Braille, the language used to re–interpret of this map. In response I produced a two–sided 10 plate puzzle that displays the original map and its origins on one side and the English translation and research process on the other.