Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Visit to Gallaudet University


Ever since I wrote a paper on Thomas Gallaudet for my sign language class, I've been interested in visiting the university named after him. When I went to Washington D.C. this summer, Gallaudet University was the only place on my sightseeing wish list. I was hoping I would meet someone who could take me on a tour and I did! HLAA's own Lisa Devlin is a retiree from Gallaudet's Hearing & Speech Center where she worked as an audiologist. When she found out, I wanted to see Gallaudet, she made it happen, driving me there and walking around campus with me.

Chapel Hall

Our first stop at Gallaudet was Chapel Hall which has a museum with a pictorial timeline of the school's 150 year history. I really enjoyed spending time in there. Lisa had seen it before but she liked seeing it again too. Another place that had exhibits on display was the Sorensen Language and Communication Center. Here are a few exhibits that caught my eye:

A display of manual alphabet sculpture

Yes, deaf people CAN drive.

In this historical photo of Gallaudet University's first women's literary society, the ladies in the front row are fingerspelling the word "owls" behind their mascot.

I later learned from Barbara Kelley of an interesting connection between an iconic statue on campus (pictured below) and the Lincoln Memorial. Both are the work of the same artist, Daniel Chester French.


In this statue, Gallaudet is shown teaching Alice Cogswell the handshape for "A" the first letter of the alphabet and her name. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was the president who signed the charter for Gallaudet (which was then named Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind) to issue college degrees? On the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial it has been noticed by many that his left hand forms an "A" and his right hand could be forming an "L". I never knew that before and think that is so cool. Check it out for yourself in this picture. You can also read more about this here and here.


I could not leave Gallaudet without visiting their library. Elizabeth Henry, one of the librarians and a friend of Lisa's, gave us a tour. My favorite part was going to the Archives Department because my current job involves digital archives. Did you know that Gallaudet's world-renowned Deaf Collections and Archives contain nearly all published materials relating to the history and culture of deaf people around the world?


Our final stop was to the bookstore where I purchased a t-shirt and travel cup as souvenirs of my visit. It was great to have my dream come true to see Gallaudet, but my timing was not the best as very few students were on campus that day. I had hoped to see crowds of people communicating in sign language but that did not happen. Have you been to Gallaudet as a student or visitor? What was your experience like?

No comments: