Welcome to the blog for “Common Touch.”
Since last November, I’ve had the pleasure of combing through the Michael Zinman Collection of Printing for the Blind at the Library Company. My research with the collection is the basis for my new body of work being created specifically for the exhibition. As you hopefully read, it will be multisensory with an emphasis on tactile, aural, and olfactory forms of perception. You will be able to follow my progress in the studio and also hear from a wide range of individuals involved in the disability community through these blog posts.
I decided to focus my first blog post on one of my favorite things from the collection. They are two hand-written letters by Jennie Partridge who is a blind pianist living sometime in the late 19th century (neither of the letters are dated). You can see from the photo detail that they are written in “square hand,” or cursive. The script is beautiful and the letters seem to have been made with great care. (I’m still trying to figure out the writing tool that she used.) In both letters Jennie is writing to her benefactor about her new piano. She is anticipating it’s arrival in the first one and in her second letter we learn that the piano has arrived safely.
Here is the passage that took my breath away (the capitalization is as written):
“Dear memories of the past will cluster around here as I try to recall the Music my dear Father so patiently read for me to learn. Though he was unable to distinguish a single musical sound.”
It is such a privilege to work with these materials and the talented project staff. My thanks to the Visual Culture Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia and The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for making it possible.