About the History Through Deaf Eyes Project

About the Project

The "DEAF EYES" project at Gallaudet University was established to bring Deaf history to the public and expand our understanding of United States history. The project is multi-faceted and includes the:

  • Exhibition - "History Through Deaf Eyes"

  • Documentary Film - "Through Deaf Eyes"

  • Book - Through Deaf Eyes: A Photographic History of an American Community

  • Other Products and Material
    1. A Poster Series
    2. DVD: "By Necessity and By Choice: How We Communicate"

The exhibition, book, and other products were produced by Gallaudet University. The two-hour PBS documentary film "Through Deaf Eyes," is a production of WETA Washington, D.C. and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc. in association with Gallaudet University.

Created by Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey, the HDTV program aligns the broad sweep of U.S. history with the experiences of Deaf people, showing how major social, economic, and technological shifts in America have changed Deaf lives. It is propelled by the stories of people both eminent and ordinary and conveys a broad range of perspectives on what it means to be deaf. Narrated by Stockard Channing, the film presents the story of Deaf life in America - a story of conflicts, prejudice and affirmation that reaches the heart of what it means to be human. A Deaf cinematic lens is brought to the documentary by six contributing filmmakers: Wayne Betts, Jr., Kimby Caplan, Arthur Luhn, Adrean Mangiardi, Tracey Salaway, and Rene Visco.

Major funding for the documentary was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, The Annenberg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding was provided by Sign Language Associates, and Richard and Gail Elden.

About the Exhibition

"We have been called deaf-mutes, mutes, objects of charity, deaf and dumb, semi-mutes, dummy, and now, hearing impaired. We have been described as 'the most misunderstood among the sons of man.' Some of us are deaf and some of us are Deaf. Some of us use American Sign Language and some of us do not. This exhibition is our untold and largely unknown history. It is American history...Through Deaf Eyes."

-Jack R. Gannon
Curator, 2001

The History Through Deaf Eyes exhibition can be viewed via this website (click on "view exhibition"). The full exhibition required 2,500 sq ft to install and included objects attached to panels and offered from the local Deaf community. This web-based presentation cannot display the incredible local additions, and some of the photographs are removed due to rights issues.

Developed by Gallaudet University, History Through Deaf Eyes is a traveling social history exhibition aligning nearly 200 years of United States history with the experiences of deaf people. Using objects and images collected by individuals, organizations, and schools for deaf children, this exhibition illustrates the shared experiences of family life, education, and work - as well as the divergent ways deaf people see themselves, communicate, employ and adapt technology, and determine their own futures.

Exhibition Goals

  • To present the deaf population in a context to which many people can relate, aligning deaf experiences with U.S. history.
  • To explore the ways that a segment of the deaf population - the cultural linguistic community of Deaf people - formed and maintains connections to each other, their common experiences, language use, and struggles.
  • To identify turning points in the history of deaf experience in the United States, and the forces creating change.
  • To foster respect for plurality and diversity through greater understanding of a community.
  • To encourage students and visitors to examine the historic struggles of deaf people as individuals and as a Deaf community and to view events both with empathy of the time and from a contemporary perspective.

Curator's Information

A profile of Jack GannonJack Gannon served as Special Assistant for Advocacy to the President of Gallaudet University. He is a graduate of the Missouri School for the Deaf and Gallaudet University. Jack Gannon is the author of Deaf Heritage, A Narrative History of Deaf America, published by the National Association of the Deaf. His second book, The Week the World Heard Gallaudet, records the "Deaf President Now" revolution on the Gallaudet campus in 1988. Jack Gannon is in demand as a speaker and has received numerous honors, including the National Association of the Deaf Distinguished Service Award and the Edward Allen Fay Award from the Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf. He holds an honorary doctorate from Gallaudet University.

Funding and Support

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
BF Goodrich Foundation


Gallaudet University welcomes your feedback and ideas about the "Through Deaf Eyes" project. Please send comments to: feedbackthroughdeafeyes@gallaudet.edu

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