Musee Valentin Hauy museum
This is a small unusual museum in Paris dedicated to Valentin Hauy who set up the first school for the blind, and Louis Braille who attended here as a child went on to become famous for his raised dot system that became known as Braille, and here you can discover globes, books, etc that were used to help the blind.
About Musee Valentin Hauy
The Musee Valentin Hauy was first founded back in 1886 by Edgard Guilbeau, who was a professor at the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles, and he named it in honour of Valentin Hauy, who was the founder of the first dedicated school for the blind back in the 1780s.
In fact, there is a very rich history of the Musee Valentin Hauy and the Valentin Hauy Association, and Edgard Guilbeau was originally a pupil at the school, before becoming a teacher there, and he set about obtaining objects and different items that were designed for or made for the blind.
And when the Valentin Hauy Association was first founded in 1889 by Maurice de La Sizeranne, who was also a teacher at the school, or Institute, the private collection that formed the museum was also incorporated into this.
As you can no doubt imagine, the collection has grown substantially over the years, and this small museum in Paris is still located within the same building where it was established, which became a National Institution for the blind.
One section of the exhibits shows the struggles that the blind and visually impaired had, with the attitudes towards these unfortunate individuals, who were often left to beg on the streets, or used as entertainment in freak shows, yet how things have progressed over the years and how this sector of people have been integrated into society.
Some of the other exhibits located behind glass cases and display stands include instruments, games, Braille typewriters, engravings and relief maps, along with an impressive large Braille globe and numerous different tools plus methods that were created right through from the 1700s to virtually the present day.
You can discover books that were originally printed by Valentin Hauy with their embossed letters for his linear system, along with exhibits relating to Charles Barbier, who was a philanthropist that tried to come up with a system utilising dots.
However, when virtually anyone thinks about how the blind read, it is using a system called Braille, and there is an exhibition dedicated to this within the Musee Valentin Hauy, which actually very apt. This is because, Louis Braille, who went blind at an early age after an accident, ended up attending the school founded by Valentin Hauy, and while there he decided to come up with his own raised dot fingertip system for reading.
His system of dots was perfected by the age of 16, so Louis Braille went on to teach at the school for the blind in Paris, along with playing the organ within churches in the city and much more, and needless to say, Braille became the officially recognised system for the blind that we recognise today.
And at the Musee Valentin Hauy you can discover old Braille typewriters along with numerous books, photographs, engravings, historical documents and much more, which provides a greater insight into how things have changed over the years, but how learning has been made possible for the unfortunate.
Yet there is also an historical library, known as the heritage library, located at the Valentin Hauy Association, which is also classed as a museum in its own right, and was initially started by Maurice de La Sizeranne who gave up his career devoting his life to helping the blind, by producing periodicals and creating a Braille library.
So in the heritage library you can discover a collection of several thousand books, the history of blindness, plus different reviews and documents all relating to the blind or visually impaired, including books on specific topics such as medical, social, religious, psychological, etc.
And this impressive collection also holds manuscripts including the evolution of the condition of the blind over the period of around three centuries, not forgetting the multi-media section that was a part of the original private collection from when the library was first established.
Visiting Musee Valentin Hauy in Paris
You will find this small museum located within the building that houses the Valentin Hauy Association within the 7th Arrondissement reasonably close to numerous different tourist attractions in Paris.
The Musee Valentin Hauy is free to visit and guided visits are available, normally on the first Thursday of the month that take place from 2.30pm to approximately 4pm and can be in French or English. Yet these do have to be booked in advance due to a limited number of places available, and not only will you get to discover the museum, but also the historical library and the Braille printing section.
However, this private and historical museum can also be visited at other times on your own, and you may be pleased to know that information on the exhibits is actually presented in French, English and Braille, although it is recommended you contact them prior to turning up, to ensure you will be able to discover this unique collection.
Yet we would like to point out that although you can visit the heritage library of the Valentin Hauy Association, no books are allowed to be out on loan, but photocopies can be provided where relevant and possible.
So when it comes to reaching the Musee Valentin Hauy, the nearest Metro station is the Duroc stop serving lines 10 and 13, yet the bus lines 28, 39, 82, 87, 89 and 92 will also get you close by.