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Deaf Museums: The Development of Open Educational Resources to train Deaf sign language users in Museum and eneral entrepreneurial skills.

Erasmus+ project number 2020-1-IT02-KA204-079582
Starting date: 1 October 2020
Duration: 30 months

Official Summary


In the EU member states, approximately 750.000 people are deaf from an early age and use a sign language as their preferred language. Deaf people not only have their ownIn the EU member states, approximately 750.000 people are deaf from an early age and use a sign language as their preferred language. Deaf people not only have their ownlanguage, but also their own culture: Deaf Culture.

The education of deaf children has a long -, and controversial - history going back centuries. Today, most hearing people do knowabout sign language, but they may know little or nothing about Deaf Culture, Deaf Education. Deaf Clubs, for centuries the centres of Deaf Culture, are disappearing quickly or have vanished already. Most deaf children are now mainstreamed. As a result, the heritage of Deaf people is at risk.

In the Deaf Museums project, we will develop Open Educational Resources (OER), including an online training course in museum and general entrepreneurial skills for and by Deaf sign language users, to promote, preserve and share the Deaf Heritage.

The Deaf Museums project has 2 long term goals:

1. To promote, preserve and share the Deaf Heritage and by doing so: to promote Deaf awareness in the widest sense possible.

2. To improve the employability of Deaf sign language users and the success of Deaf entrepreneurs by providing them with the necessary mindset and skills. In so doing, it will support the Erasmus+ goals for the participants in Strategic Partnerships: increased capacity and professionalism to work at EU/international level: improved management competences and internationalisation strategies; reinforced cooperation with partners from other countries and other cultures.

Short term objectives of the project are:

1. To develop online Open Educational Resources including a training course in basic Museum skills, for and by Deaf sign language users. The course will include examples, guidelines, signed stories and case studies, all produced and/or tested by the participants in the project. Included will be topics that state of the art mainstream museums areaddressing: “Who are museums for and why are they working to engage new audiences? How do visitors respond emotionally to museum objects and spaces? And how can museumsplay a role in the pursuit of social justice, human rights, or health and well being?” (https://www.culturepartnership.eu/en/article/5-free-online-courses-for-museum-workers). Special attention will be given to the use of social media and ICT tools. All information will be in International Sign, written English, and as many of the partners’ signed and written languages as possible.as possible.

2. To output case studies and good examples of museum exhibitions (e.g. about Deaf Culture, Deaf Art, Deaf people during WWII, Deaf migrants, Deaf in the European Union), produced by the participants in the project. The case studies and exhibitions will be used as examples in the training course and to promote the project and disseminate its results both during and after the project's lifetime.

3. To research the state of the art in this field through surveys and interviews, to use the results to set up a platform for the promotion of real and virtual Deaf museums and DeafHeritage initiatives, nationally, across Europe and globally, and to promote and support transnational collaboration in this field.

Methodology and participating organisations:

The participating organisations represent a diverse mix of organisations from different fields of education, training, and other socio-economic sectors, including institutes of highereducation, NGO's and SME's, from 7 European countries. In the consortium, participants from 'the Deaf world' and from the 'mainstream Museum world' will work together to produce high quality results and output by sharing and comparing each other's expertise.

Our methodology will be based on peer-learning and challenge-based learning. Partners as well as several invited experts will share their expertise in specific fields. Partners will be asked to find solutions for the challenges that Museums in general, and Deaf Museums in particular have to deal with. They will learn practical entrepreneurial skills by planning, producing, promoting and evaluating the exhibitions that they will develop during the project.

At each consortium meeting, they will be interviewed about the work they have done andabout lessons learned. These interviews will be included in the OER and will be used to disseminate information about the project, both during and after the project's lifetime.

Impact and potential longer term benefits:

Interest in the Deaf Heritage and Deaf Culture and how to preserve and share these has been growing rapidly in recent years. Therefore, we expect the project to have a major impact on Deaf people and Deaf Organisations in general, and on Deaf Museums and similar initiatives in particular. We also expect the project to have impact on mainstream Museump rofessionals.

Long term benefits:

Bridging gaps between generations of Deaf people, between Deaf and hearing people, and between Deaf and mainstream Museum professionals.

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Quotes:

  • "Histories have for too long emphasized the controversies over communication methods and the accomplishments of hearing people in the education of deaf students, with inadequate attention paid to those deaf individuals who created communication bridges and distinguished themselves as change agents in their respective field of endeavour."
    from: Harry G. Lang, Bonny Meath-Lang: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, 1995
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: Museums Change Lives
  • “If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”
    Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
  • "Opening ourselves to the Deaf community, listening to and respecting them as co-creators and experts telling the stories they want told, makes our practice richer, and has ongoing positive effects for the community.
    These embryonic relationships hopefully encourage Deaf people to feel welcome in our space — it’s their space too.
    For both side, communities and museum professionals, while genuinely, openly and truly committing to working together can be time-consuming, it repays any investment many-fold."
    Corinne Ball: Expressing ourselves’: creating a Deaf exhibition", 2020
  • "The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "And yet, even within a large and, in many ways, traditional organization such as this (Trøndelag Folk Museum, Norway), the museum's encounter with Deaf culture contributed to profound changes and a process, still underway, which challenges our own understanding of what a museum is today, our role in society and our obligations towards more diverse audiences than those we had previously engaged or even recognized."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "Beyond works of art and objects, museums collect shared heritage, memories and living cultures as well as what we call intangible collectables."
    Source: We are Museums
  • "Nina Simon has described true inclusion in a museum context as occurring when museums value the diversity in their audience, value those individuals’ potential and contributions, when they actively link those diverse people across differences, and when the organisation reaches out with generosity and curiosity at the core.
    On a practical level this sort of museum practice would see widespread inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning of museum exhibitions, on museum boards and steering committees, and working in curatorial roles."
    In: Corinne Ball: Expressing Ourselves, 2020
  • "An important matter for any minority group is that written documents in public archives are often drawn up by the majority group and do not always reflect a minority as it sees itself. Thus, preserving sign language narration is of the utmost importance and a challenge to those working in the field of Deaf history."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • "Until the fall semester of 1986, the history department at Gallaudet University had never before offered a course in the history of deaf people.
    In the 122 years, to that point, since the founding of the university, which was specifically intended for the education of deaf peoples, no one had ever taught a course about this very group of people.
    In all of those years the history department had offered courses on a wide range of topics but never deaf history. "
    ENNIS, WILLIAM T., et al. “A Conversation: Looking Back on 25 Years of A Place of Their Own.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–41. 
  • “Stories of disability are largely absent from museum displays. Where they appear, they often reflect deeply entrenched, negative attitudes towards physical and mental difference. Research reveals that museums don’t simply reflect attitudes; they are active in shaping conversations about difference.
    Projects created with disabled people show that museums hold enormous potential to shape more progressive, accurate and respectful ways of understanding human diversity. Why wouldn’t we take up this opportunity? ”
    Richard Sandell, co-director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/museums-change-lives/
  • the past can hurt

    From: Walt Disney, The Lion King

  • "It was only during the past decade that recognition of the importance of preserving Deaf history has emerged. In the main, Deaf heritage, culture and folklore has been passed down from generation to generation via the medium of sign language and fingerspelling. (..) It is also vital that the history of Deaf people is made available to future generations, especially Deaf schoolchildren as part of their history lessons."
    A. Murray Holmes,  in: Cruel Legacy, an introduction of Deaf people in history, by A.F. Dimmock, 1993
  • "Deaf mute, deaf and dumb, hearing impaired – the choices are many and not without consequences. Words have many meanings, they convey attitudes and prejudices and may hurt, even when used in a well-intended context."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.
    One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."
    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. This is based on the principle that citizens are not just consumers of cultural capital created by others; we have agency and the right to contribute through culture to the wider good of society."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Access to and participation in culture is a basic human right. Everyone has a right to representation and agency in museums, and communities should have the power to decide how they engage."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "After all, we are all of us explorers, and we all have much to bring to each other from our own
    journeyings."
    Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.
  • "Inclusion is moving from “we tolerate your presence” to “we WANT you here with us”.
    Jillian Enright in The Social Model of Disability, 2021
  • "Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.
    With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."
    BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016
  • "As recently as the 1970s, deaf history did not exist. There were available sketches of various hearing men, primarily teachers, who were credited with bringing knowledge and enlightenment to generations of deaf children, but deaf adults were absent."

    In: Preface to: "Deaf History Unvailed, Interpretations from the New Scholarship". John Vickrey van Cleve, editor
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, 1993
  • “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.”
    Chris Cleave in "Little Bee", 2008
  • "This (Deaf) Museum is not intended as a casual show, to be seen once and forgotten. Its pretensions are nobler; it has a humanitarian aim. By its solid and tangible evidences, making history memorable and attractive by illustration, it serves a double purpose: to dispel ignorance and prejudice regarding the deaf, and to raise the victims of this prejudice and ignorance to their true level in society."
    The British Deaf Monthly, Vol. VI (p.265) 1897. In: Deaf Museums and Archival Centres, 2006
  • "The most significant function of museums is as centres for cultural democracy, where children and adults learn through practical experience that we all have cultural rights. Having the opportunity to create, and to give to others, may be one of our greatest sources of fulfilment. Culture is everywhere and is created by everyone."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "The Finnish Museum of the Deaf) was founded by deaf people, and, thus, its task has been to strengthen their identity and historical communality.

    Most of our materials have a connection to the key experiences that generations of deaf people have shared. These are important in understanding the past and keeping the collective memory alive."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • "What has become clear is that museums don’t just function as custodians of the past anymore; instead, they have embraced their responsibility towards the communities of the present: a responsibility to represent them, to speak to them, and to be open to dialogue with them."
    Tim Deakin, August 2021