Treasures from the APH Libraries - July 2012
The APH Barr Library supports research initiatives at APH, while the Migel Library is the largest collection of nonmedical information related to blindness in the world. Although the collections do not circulate, arrangements can be made to use the materials on-site. In addition, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will continue to make materials available through the online catalog at http://migel.aph.org.
Two of the many "Treasures from the APH Libraries" are described below.
From the Migel Library: Memory of Blind People: Studies in Touch, Movement, and Audition—V. K. Kool. New Delhi, India: Ministry of Social Welfare, c1981.
Memory of Blind People is a work that was intended to discuss how the repeated performance of tasks could depend on the memory of a visual reference of the action. But one of the most interesting things about this monograph is the personal connection to the report that the item provides as both a document and an artifact. The preface contains a very personal narrative that details everything down to the staffing problems of the project. The author describes each of the people who worked on the project, concluding that a team of dedicated and sincere workers is more important than monetary or material assistance. Dr. Kool then describes a nostalgia that he feels for the days when he and a few "comrades" worked for three days just to complete the manuscript. And therein lies the connection.
The manuscript itself consists of 1,069 pages—each hand-numbered with a stamp, and typed on a water-marked piece of typing paper. Sections of the work are actually on paper of differing size, brand, and shade, which gives a feel for the piecing together of years worth of work. The table of contents' pagination has been hand written, possibly at the work’s completion. And the author’s information is provided by a business card that has been glued onto the title page. The binding of the book is sewn, and brings the 11cm.-thick transcript together nicely. The artifact really gives a good representation of the time, work, and the people who collaborated to bring its publication together.
From the Barr Library: Blind Vision: the Neuroscience of Visual Impairment—Zaira Cattaneo and Tomaso Vecchi. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, c2011.
Blind Vision is a solid overview of the vision related aspects and discoveries of recent "brain research." The expansive bibliographies show a wide ranging research base, as do the discussions of various research results, but the writing is quite approachable, considering the complexity of the subject. The examination of sensory perception and its contribution to mental representation across sight, blindness, and low vision is very thorough and thoughtfully presented.
Readers will be given some new insights regarding the nature of reality and the experience of life for different minds. The authors also note that age at the onset of blindness affects the adaptation of the brain to the lack of visual stimuli and compare typical sensory abilities across several onset cohorts. The plasticity discussion that logically follows discusses structural changes in the brain and reassignment of portions of the brain devoted to certain tasks. The entire work offers much thought provoking material in relation to education, rehabilitation, or assistive technology, and invites long philosophical discussions. This is an excellent introduction to the subject for a person who is curious about this area of research, but not sure of where to start.
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