William Woods, MSD To Host National Exhibit Of Deaf History

William Woods University and the Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD) will jointly sponsor a national exhibit in November that chronicles nearly 200 years of deaf history in the United States.

The WWU campus is the third site of a national tour that includes the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “History Through Deaf Eyes” was organized by Gallaudet University, a college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Washington, D.C.

The exhibit features photographs, objects, replicas, text and an interactive DVD that highlight the little known history of deaf Americans. One section is specific to Missouri’s deaf heritage.

“History Through Deaf Eyes” will open Nov. 11 with a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Gladys Woods Kemper Center for the Arts on the William Woods University campus. Special guest Jack Gannon, curator of the exhibit, who is a famous author and a 1954 graduate of the Missouri School for the Deaf will be in attendance.

The exhibit will be free and open to the public through Dec. 14 in Mildred Cox Gallery of the art center. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. In conjunction with the Gallaudet exhibit, MSD will exhibit select works of art by the school’s students in the art center’s Corridor Gallery.

“History Through Deaf Eyes” consists of 60 panels, each about the size of a door. The exhibit of pictures and artifacts has been several years in preparation. It moves visitors through four thematic historical benchmarks: Formation of a Community, Language and Identity, Community Building and Awareness, and Access and Change.

In the last 20 years, according to Bob Alexander, interim superintendent of MSD, the deaf community has sought a number of ways to increase understanding of the unique culture of deaf people. The exhibit is designed to help visitors catch glimpses of the development of this culture through photographs and artifacts.

“Fulton is indeed fortunate to be the host city for such an exhibit,” Alexander said. “Because of the rich history of educating deaf children at MSD, we thought it particularly appropriate that the exhibit be in central Missouri.”

Alexander added, “We are grateful to the State Board of Education for making funding available through our trust fund, and to William Woods University for their assistance.”

The Missouri School for the Deaf and William Woods have worked collaboratively for many years on a variety of projects. WWU has been training sign language interpreters since 1990 and is one of only 25 schools in North America offering a four-year degree program in interpreting American Sign Language (ASL).

Last year the State of Missouri awarded an $80,000 three-year renewable grant to William Woods to create an innovative new program, combining the study of social work with the study of American Sign Language. The ultimate goal is to provide the deaf community with social workers trained in their language.

“History Through Deaf Eyes” was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and support from The Motorola Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, SBC Foundation and the Goodrich Foundation.

This is the third showing of the exhibit, which has been seen only in Hartford, Conn., hosted by the American School for the Deaf, and at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., co-hosted by the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

The American School, a privately funded institution created in 1820, was the first U.S. school for the deaf. The Kentucky School for the Deaf was the first publicly funded school for the deaf in the United States. It opened in 1823, and served as a model for public schools for the deaf.

Following the Fulton showing, the exhibit will travel to Rochester, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. during 2002. There have been more than 120 requests for the exhibit, and the remainder of the tour has yet to be set.

For more information on the exhibit, go to http://depts.gallaudet.edu/deafeyes/.