"Louis Braille's childhood home was above all vacant. He had left the house quite empty. It’s up to us to bring it to life."
Located in the house where Louis Braille was born, the eponymous museum is an amazing place to experience. It offers a stimulating journey to the land of reading and writing for the blind, an excursion especially recommended for young children in full apprenticeship. Everyone will enjoy discovering the life and work of Louis Braille, as they explore the art of living in the Brie region during the 19th century.
The residence stopped belonging to the Braille family in the 1880s, and would probably have fallen into oblivion without one man’s determination: Jean Roblin. He founded the association Les amis de Louis Braille (The Friends of Louis Braille), which in 1952 bought the house in order to restore it and start a museum. Visitors were first welcomed in 1953. As the association was unable to deal with the museum’s great responsibility on its own, the property’s ownership was granted to the commune, with the condition it would be managed by the World Organization for the Social Promotion of the Blind (now the World Blind Union). In 1956, the house officially became a municipal museum and Jean Roblin its first Curator.
Objectives and action areas
The Louis Braille Museum has continued to expand and develop its activities. It has four main missions:
- Protect and promote the memory and work of Louis Braille in France and around the world;
- Preserve, conserve, and expand the museum's collections;
- Exhibit and promote the collections for different audiences;
- Raise public awareness of Braille writing and the issue of its decline in use and instruction, as well as, more generally, of visual disability.
The museum's collections contain about one thousand objects, grouped as follows:
- items pertaining to the history and evolution of literacy learning materials for blind people: typewriters, raphigraphy equipment, Braille computer displays, tactile embossed books, Braille books, boards, stamps, geometry tools, etc.;
- agricultural implements (especially ones relating to viticulture, since the Brailles were also winemakers);
- cultural heritage objects and artifacts from 19th century everyday life, items concerning the Brie region's lifestyle in the 18th and 19th centuries (beds, ovens, fireplaces, sideboards, tables, crockery, sheets, clothing, headgear, etc.);
- personal belongings of Louis Braille.
The Louis Braille Museum was granted the Musée de France (Museum of France) accreditation in 1961. This means that the museum's collection is officially registered and part of French national heritage. Its collections therefore are inalienable and cannot be sold.
On 8 December 1966, Louis Braille’s childhood home was also registered in the additional list of Historic Monuments, and was restored from 1995 to 1997.
In 2006 and 2011, it was accredited with the Tourisme et handicap (Tourism and Handicap) label for the mentally handicapped.
And since 2011, the museum officially is a Maison des Illustres (Landmark House).
The Louis Braille Museum has been directed by Farida Saïdi since 2008.
The Comité Français Louis Braille (French Louis Braille Committee) is the governing body. It is chaired by Mr Vincent Michel, President of the French Blind Federation, on behalf of the World Blind Union, the Museum's Administrator.
The Management Committee and the Museum's Director hold joint responsibility for the day-to-day running of Louis Braille’s childhood home. The commune of Coupvray, the proprietor, handles its maintenance and preservation.
The house where Louis Braille grew up is a very large rural residence in a style typical of the Briard region. It was built in the middle of the 18th century.
Three of its main rooms are part of the visitors' circuit:
- The common room: a space dedicated to life in the 19th century and to the Braille family's daily life. Louis Braille was born in this room on 4 January 1809.
- His father's workshop: an essential part of the visit, since this is where the accident happened that changed little Louis's destiny.
- Louis Braille's bedroom, dedicated to the history of Braille writing and to giving blind people access to education and knowledge. Some personal belongings of the brilliant inventor are also exhibited here.