More Than Just a Desk: Helen Keller's Desk Displayed at the APH Museum

by Jessica Minneci

A hand touching the glass top of a wooden desk
     When I touched the smooth glass-topped surface of Helen Keller's desk at the APH museum, I thought of how the texture beneath my fingertips revealed a normal, average desk. It was like something you would find in any office: a large desk with two sets of drawers on either side, a wide surface, and a wooden guard to protect papers from sliding off. Yet, the normalcy of such a piece pales in comparison to what it represents. After all, Helen Keller did some of her finest work while sitting at her desk. She was a writer, pacifist, feminist, and an advocate for women and for the blind and visually impaired community. Touching the desk helped me get closer to Helen Keller and renew my support for everything she has done.

Jess, standing with Helen's desk in the APH museum
     As a college student, I am able to relate most to Helen's piece "To Girls Who Are Going to College." Published in The Youth's Companion  on June 8, 1905, her piece gives emerging college students advice about how to be successful in postsecondary school. A lot of her advice is practical such as studying and working hard. She also discusses being fearless, kind, accepting of diversity, and doing your best. More than that, Helen emphasizes that people should be happy in everything that they do as they throw themselves into activities and be of service to others. She wrote, “Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Work without joy shall be as nothing. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invisible host against difficulties." In today's world, people are often told to take a job that will give them the most money so that they can live a good life. In all reality, however, money will not make people happy. Rather, the work that they do that is rewarding to them will yield happiness. Helen knew this and was wise to give students this advice for she believed they deserve to enter into a career that brings them joy.
Helen Keller is admired for her many contributions to social action, peace, the rights of women, and those who are blind or visually impaired. As a writer and a person who thirsts for new knowledge, I especially admire her words of wisdom about happily serving others. For these and numerous other reasons, touching Helen's desk was a surreal experience as I touched one of the possessions of an inspiring deaf-blind woman. At a glance, the desk may just look like a simple piece of furniture, but it is more than that. It stands as a symbol of Helen Keller's life and the work that she did to help others. If you are an admirer of Helen Keller, go visit APH and experience the desk. In doing so, remind yourself of what Helen Keller means to you.

For info on visiting the the Museum at APH click here.

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