Because, if you do it right, it will be:
- a community centred,
- participatory exhibition,
- about a cultural and linguistic minority, and
- a showcase for true accessibility for all.
A Deaf exhibition is an exhibition about Deaf history, Deaf Culture, Deaf Arts.
It can be an exhibition about:
- Sign language,
what is it, who invented it (no one!), is it universal like Esperanto (no!). sign language poetry, sign language through the ages. With photos, videos, live performances.
- Deaf art,
with paintings, photographs, sculptures, poetry by Deaf artists, deceased or alive.
- The story of Deaf education,
and the (ongoing!) division between manualists and oralists (educators who accept sign language as the first and only truly accessible language for deaf people, versus educators whose objective is to teach deaf people to communicate in a spoken language that they can't hear.
- The story of technology,
and how it has made life more accessible for deaf people. While at the same time, technicians tried (and keep trying) to 'cure' deafness with technological inventions.
- Stories of one or more Deaf people who made a difference,
Now or in the past.
- The Deaf community
in your area: make them visible!
- Deaf immigrants and asylum seekers,
their stories, photos, videos.
- Deaf perspectives,
stories, photos, videos, performances by Deaf people, that show how THEY see hearing people, the hearing community.
- For more examples, see: https://www.deafmuseums.eu/index.php/en/deaf-museums/deaf-exhibitions
- Visitors already interested in Deaf culture, history: deaf people, families, friends, teachers, colleagues of deaf people, sign language interpreters.
- Everyone interested in sign language: people learning sign language, people who've seen sign language on TV, in movies, on YouTube.
- Everyone else.
- ALWAYS take ownership into account, from the very beginning. You cannot 'take' stories, artefacts, anything from the Deaf community - or any community- without asking. Without their participation.
- Take into account that Deaf people come in all sorts, sizes and shapes. the main division: those who prefer to communicate through speech, residual hearing, speechreading. Those who prefer to communicate in sign language. In both cases, you may need an interpreter. A text interpreter or a sign language interpreter.
- In addition, deaf people are as diverse as hearing people. In hair colour, skin colour, education, interests, you name it. So no, you probably can't just ask one deaf person to answer all you questions.
And yes, if you ask more than 1 Deaf person, they may not agree!
- Your best option: contact the relevant national organisation and ask for advice. Relevant organisations can be the national Deaf Association (for EU member states, see ), or the national association of hard-of-hearing people (see: ) of users of Cochlear Implants, of the national Association of Deaf LHbti people, etc. Ask Google to find them for you!
- If you're unsure: find a consultant, buddy, guide, deaf or hearing, who can point you in the right direction, who can walk with you until you've found your way, who can answer the questions you're afraid to ask.
Feedback from our survey for mainstream Museum professionals (June 2022):
- Include consultation in your planning from the beginning;
- make sure that costs are included in budgeting from the beginning (Payment for consultation and experts, translation costs, technical requirements, etc);
- training for staff that centres what is needed by Deaf visitors, rather than what we assume might be needed and an understanding of *why*.
Oh, and don't forget...
- Of course you will have to make your exhibition accessible to Deaf people. And safe. Deaf people will not hear your fire alarm, will not hear Tannoy instructions.
One more thing...
- Maybe you can make your exhibition mobile? Maybe you can set up a Deaf Exhibition Exchange programme with other Museums? With Libraries? Universities, schools?
The Deaf Museums project was a transnational project funded under the Erasmus+ project (2021 - 2023). For more information: www.deafmuseums.eu.