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University of Iowa News

Oct. 31, 2005

Photo: Students from the St. Rita's School for the Deaf, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1918. Photograph by J.B. Schmidt. National Archives, Image: 165-WW-77E-3.

'History Through Deaf Eyes' Exhibit Opens Nov. 4 at UI; Lecture Nov. 5

The public is invited to the opening of the "History Through Deaf Eyes" exhibit at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 on the first floor of the University of Iowa Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.

Developed at Gallaudet University and shown at the Smithsonian Institution, the traveling social history exhibit reveals two centuries of American history through the perspective of deaf people and the Deaf community.

Jane Fernandes, Ph.D. (left), provost at Gallaudet University and a UI Distinguished Alumna, and Jack Gannon (right), exhibit curator, will make opening remarks at 4:30 p.m. followed by a reception. In addition, Fernandes will present a lecture on the relationship of the Deaf community to society in general at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, also at the Hardin Library. All events will be signed and voice interpreted. The nearest parking available is the Newton Road Parking Ramp.

"History Through Deaf Eyes" illustrates family life, education and work, as well as the divergent ways in which deaf people see themselves, communicate and pursue opportunities and goals. In addition to video, artifacts and images from around the country, statewide materials reveal the history of deaf people in Iowa.

The visual display comes to the UI through efforts of faculty members in the Department of History, the Department of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, and the American Sign Language Program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 23, 2006, and can be seen free of charge at any time during Hardin Library normal hours of operation. For information on hours, visit www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/hours.html or call 319-335-9151. While the exhibit lends itself to a self-guided tour, groups interested in guided tours may contact Richard Hurtig, Ph.D., UI professor of speech pathology and audiology, at richard-hurtig@uiowa.edu or 319-335-8730.

"The exhibit will provide our state with a unique opportunity to learn about the history of a little-understood minority that has had many turning points in the past 200 years and shared in the progression of our country," said Hurtig, who was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to Iowa.

Doug Baynton, Ph.D., UI associate professor of history and American Sign Language, was a principal researcher and writer for the exhibit. In 1997, Jean Bergey, project director of the exhibit, invited him to spend the summer in Washington, D.C., to do research and write a draft script.

"Deaf people in America began to develop their own distinct language and culture two centuries ago. They are unique as a minority group, in some ways similar to other people with disabilities, in others more like an ethnic group," Baynton said.

"Since the early 19th century, deaf people have created organizations and associations, a periodical press, an oral literature handed down over generations and a value system distinct from that of hearing Americans. At the same time, the existence of this community has generated fierce controversy. The exhibit has a fascinating story to tell," he added.

The UI started its American Sign Language program in 1994, which was also when Baynton started teaching a course on the history of the American Deaf community.

Additional lectures related to the exhibit, including one by Baynton, will be offered throughout the period that the exhibit is on display. Details will be provided as they become available.

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

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACTS: Media: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660, becky-soglin@uiowa.edu; Program: Richard Hurtig, 319-335-8730, richard-hurtig@uiowa.edu

PHOTO/ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: An electronic photo and bio of Jane Fernandes is available to media on request. Contact: becky-soglin@uiowa.edu.