Funded through the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), The Deaf Heritage Collective is a collaborative project led by Edinburgh Napier University's Design for Heritage team and Heriot Watt's Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies. The aim of the collaboration is to advance discussion around the BSL Scotland National Plan (2017) and bring into being a network of Deaf communities, and cultural heritage organisations committed to promoting BSL in public life.
Scotland’s political identification of BSL as a formal language prompted the researchers behind the project to explore the response of cultural and heritage institutions. The Scottish context is key to the project’s ambitions: the formal recognition of BSL as a language through the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015, followed by the first BSL National Plan, in October 2017. Notably, the Scottish Government’s pledge “to make Scotland the best place in the world for people whose first or preferred language is BSL to live, work and visit” (Scottish Government, s.d.) places a significant emphasis upon culture and public life.
This historic moment signaled the need to create an open discussion between Scotland’s cultural institutions and its Deaf communities; a call to action at a historic point when, as researchers, we might ask questions that demand a fundamental re-thinking of the 20thcentury language and practices of access at the point of purchase.
So, why a collective? And what is a collective for?
The Deaf Heritage Collectiveannounces something of its intention through its title; it takes a position and claims a type of action. The Deaf Heritage Collectiveplaces emphasis upon the capacity of heritage to shape who we are. Much like the term ‘culture’, the concept of ‘heritage’ summons overlapping, disparate and, at times, contradictory meanings that make pinning it down very difficult. Nevertheless, the decision to name the project the Deaf Heritage Collectivereflects the team’s interest in how society ‘constructs heritage’. The research team share an interest in the ethical responsibility of heritage to engage in issues of equality. Heritage from this standpoint, is viewed as a matter of cultural evaluation and representation and is therefore well-placed to develop cultural democracy.
As part of the decision to claim this title, the team agreed upon a particular definition of ‘collective’, one that was sensitive to the different language communities and areas of expertise. ‘Collective’ is understood as “a process of working together as a group to achieve a common objective”. This emphasis on processreflects the wider aim to build connections and encourage bonds between cultural organisations and deaf creatives.
The two-year project began in January 2018 and is structured through four touring workshops and exhibitions in Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Stirling. Four cities were chosen to reveal more local representations of Deaf culture, geographic provision and cultural resources. Importantly, experiences of BSL provision in the cultural sector varies across each of these locations. Local responses to each of the workshops provide useful comparisons that advance understanding of BSL and public life in Scotland.
Deaf Heritage Futures:
"The first BSL National Plan (due 22 October 2017) and its mandate for the inclusion of Deaf Culture in Scottish public life provide the context and rationale for the proposed collaborative networking project.
The Deaf Heritage Collective project will fuel BSL promotion, formalising a collaborative network of cultural institutions and researchers whose work coalesces around the subject of Deaf Heritage. A series of events exploring Deaf Culture, heritage design, inclusivity and technology will enable the network to drive the sharing of expertise and googd practice".
Kirstie Jamieson, 2018
What Should Heritage Do? Heritage shoulders an ethical responsibility
to engage with issues of equality. Heritage is after all a matter of cultural evaluation and representation?
What Should Heritage Do?
an ethical responsibility to engage with issues of equality.