UVU Professor Leads Effort To Build Online Deaf World Library And Museum
October 8, 2013
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Whitney Wilkinson
Written by: Heather Wrigley
Each semester, Utah Valley University professor and Director of American Sign Language & Deaf Studies Bryan Eldredge assigns his students projects that require extensive research of historical documents regarding the cultures of deaf people. There’s just one problem:
“Today, the vast majority of the nation’s deaf resources are only available to those who can physically visit the libraries where they exist,” Eldredge said. “It’s really frustrating for students in the deaf studies program when they need to do research and there is so much in the way of historical documentation that they can’t find, let alone access.”
But a $50,000 grant awarded to Eldredge in September might change all that. The grant — from Washington, D.C.’s Institute of Museum and Library Services — is funding for Eldredge to begin work on a Deaf World Library and Museum, a digital resource that will, for the first time, make materials and historical information related to the cultures of deaf people accessible through a single Internet access point.
The DWLM will contain and preserve existing collections and will make documents, cultural artifacts, digitized videos, films and more available to scholars, teachers, deaf students, ASL students, interpreters, social advocates and members of the public throughout the world.
“The goal is to consolidate existing resources in a way that will not only make them more available, but will encourage their use in new ways that take advantage of emerging technologies,” Eldredge said.
For instance, users will not have to log on to different organizations’ websites to access their archives, but will be able to view PDFs of letters, 3D images of tools and other digital materials from those various archives immediately by logging on to the DWLM.
“We have a limited slice of history because most of deaf history took place before we had video, and few deaf people could write in English,” Eldredge explained. “More and more ASL-based documents and videos will be a part of the holdings, so this will be a resource for both the deaf world and for those studying it.”
One of the “emerging technologies” Eldredge has in mind includes the ability to search ASL video using movement recognition, rather than having to search an English transcript of the video.
The grant became active Oct. 1, and Eldredge is leading the effort to come up with an implementation plan. Partners include Gallaudet University, a Washington, D.C., university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing; California State University, Northridge, which contains numerous holdings dealing with deaf education; and The National Technical Institute for the Deaf at The Rochester Institute of Technology. Experts in deaf studies, deaf education, deaf culture and library sciences will also collaborate to help make the DWLM a reality.
“What I’m really looking forward to is getting this project into the hands of people who can help make it a reality,” Eldredge said. “I want to share my vision and my passion with them and blend it with their skills and insight. I’m an end-user. I want to build it because I wish I had it.”