The replica of a bronze statue currently exhibited in the Statuary Hall in Washington, D. C., arrived in Talladega Tuesday, but the official exhibit did not open until Wednesday afternoon. The spring weather was perfect for the event, Graham said, and he felt sure Keller herself had something to do with making the day ideal.
Graham said Keller has always been inspirational to the staff and students of AIDB because of her ability to overcome so many challenges to become the international leader she still is today.
Anne Sullivan, Keller’s tutor who helped her break through her silence to understand language, was also what Graham described as a tenacious and determined woman who would never give up. That combination of strong women is the inspiration for the statue of Keller, which shows her in the moment she understands what water is as she stands at a water pump and Sullivan spells “W-A-T-E-R” in American Sign Language into the palm of her hand.
“Governor Bob Riley made a dream a reality by campaigning to have Helen Keller be one of Alabama’s featured statues in our nation’s capitol,” Graham said. “This statue created by Edward Hlavka is the first of a child or a person with a disability to be featured in the collection.”
Graham went on to say that while he was visiting some congressional delegates in Washington recently, he decided to pay a visit to the original statue in the Capitol Rotunda. For a few moments, he stood back to observe how the statue was received by fellow visitors.
Since the statue is the first one on the right upon entering Statuary Hall, Graham said the placement could not have been any better. He said he noticed the statue receiving more attention in the hour he observed it than all the other statues. People were touching it to feel the Braille on the base and having their pictures taken with it to remember the experience of seeing Keller’s statue.
The replica will be on display in Manning Hall at the Alabama School for the Deaf until April 12 thanks to contributions from Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln. Some of Keller’s personal items are also on display throughout Warren Museum.
Hours when the exhibit will be open to the public are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Saturday of April in Talladega and 1-5 p.m. April 11. That Sunday, Keller Johnson-Thompson, Keller’s great-grandniece and vice president of education for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, will also make a presentation about her aunt’s life.
Johnson-Thompson also attended Wednesday’s event, saying when they had the initial unveiling of the replica statue in Montgomery, she was told to make sure the statue made a stop in Talladega on its tour of state museums. Eventually the statue will return to the state capitol to remain on permanent display.
“Helen Keller has inspired me ever since she was a child,” Johnson-Thompson said. “I loved a quote about her that said ‘Before she would inspire millions, someone would inspire her.’ We are working to find solutions to deafness and blindness by working with some daring and inspiring folks. Please enjoy your stay with Aunt Helen.”
To schedule a group tour or visit of the exhibit, contact Lisa Sams at 256-761-3207.