Inverness,  

 The Townhouse

Good practice

& BSL Infrastructure

For over 500 years, the Scottish Deaf community has lived creatively expressive, visual lives - virtually unnoticed amongst the hearing. Those 500 years have bequeathed to the nation a rich cultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. This rich heritage was recognised in the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 and by October 2018, Scotland’s local authorities will have drafted their response to the Act; outlining plans to promote BSL culture and heritage. Some local authorities commit to developing equality in culture and the arts while others have a more limited vision of access that misses the mandate to consider employment and leadership in cultural and heritage organisations.
The recent draft Cultural Strategy for Scotland provides a further backdrop to consider ‘best practice’ for a future BSL infrastructure in Scotland’s cultural sector; one that emphasises empowerment, leadership and diversity over inclusion at the point of consumption.
 

In the second of our collaborative workshops we invited our participants to explore the future of Deaf culture and heritage in Scotland. Work from Deaf artists, activists and historians provided the context to consider ‘best practice’ and BSL infrastructure.

 
 

Exhibition in Displa

 

1/15

Tracing Archives: mirroring experience

Deaf History of Scotland (DHS) and The National Library of Scotland ScotlandS

The two archive’s showcases, opposite to each other, meant to address sensitive issues relating to the current status of archives and who should be in charge of it.

 

We aimed to provoke questions upon the reality of unfunded community heritage with the potentiality of recognition and funding brought about through a legal mandate. 

When we first approached Deaf History Scotland, the archives had received no formal support to preserve and display Deaf Heritage. Compared to the tedious and careful process of going through the National Library of Scotland archives, wearing white gloves and pre-ordering in advance which material we wanted to consult, in Deaf History of Scotland we were confronted with a basement of materials that belonged to the charity archives largely through donations and bequeathed family items. The stark reality of the precarity of Deaf stories, objects and spaces was emphasized when compared with the authorised official archives NLS: the materials had same historical value, yet not the same recognition and members of the deaf community can recount instances of clearances of schools, homes and unofficial archives – where the destination of Deaf heritage was most often a skip.

Tracing the Archives: From Inverness to Donaldson's  

An interpretation of NLS Archives

Cultural memory is not found,
instead it is made, formalised and
curated in the archive.

 

The National Library of Scotland is the guardian and institutional system that conditions preservation and access for the Donaldson’s’ School archives, from which this exhibition is drawn.  Such stories are accessible because of the ways in which documents are carefully assigned to cultures, spaces and times.

 

The Deaf histories that are contained in the NLS archives are made visible through the curatorial principles of organisation and categorisation. The Donaldsons’ archive is a formal and authorized record of Deaf culture.

Cultural memory is not found,
instead it is made, formalised and
curated in the archive.

 

The National Library of Scotland is the guardian and institutional system that conditions preservation and access for the Donaldson’s’ School archives, from which this exhibition is drawn.  Such stories are accessible because of the ways in which documents are carefully assigned to cultures, spaces and times.

 

The Deaf histories that are contained in the NLS archives are made visible through the curatorial principles of organisation and categorisation. The Donaldsons’ archive is a formal and authorized record of Deaf culture.

Cultural memory is not found,
instead it is made, formalised and
curated in the archive.

 

The National Library of Scotland is the guardian and institutional system that conditions preservation and access for the Donaldson’s’ School archives, from which this exhibition is drawn.  Such stories are accessible because of the ways in which documents are carefully assigned to cultures, spaces and times.

 

The Deaf histories that are contained in the NLS archives are made visible through the curatorial principles of organisation and categorisation. The Donaldsons’ archive is a formal and authorized record of Deaf culture.

Cultural memory is not found,
instead it is made, formalised and
curated in the archive.

 

The National Library of Scotland is the guardian and institutional system that conditions preservation and access for the Donaldson’s’ School archives, from which this exhibition is drawn.  Such stories are accessible because of the ways in which documents are carefully assigned to cultures, spaces and times.

 

The Deaf histories that are contained in the NLS archives are made visible through the curatorial principles of organisation and categorisation. The Donaldsons’ archive is a formal and authorized record of Deaf culture.

Salvage: 

To Save from Loss or Destruction

An interpretation of DHS Archives

When displayed,
belongings have the function of witnessing the existence of cultures.

 

Deaf History of Scotland has functioned as a repository of belongings from the Deaf community for ten years. Documents, photographs, personal collections and institutional memorabilia sit side by side in the basement of Norfolk Street, Glasgow. Unfunded and un-curated these materials have not been privileged as a formal archive, yet they are a testimony to Deaf lives, spaces and language. 

 

 

The Deaf histories that are contained in the DHS collection are made invisible through funding mechanisms and cultural categorisation. The DHS collection is an informal and un-authorized record of Deaf culture.

History Scotland 10th Anniversary   

 Deaf History Scotland

Since its founding in 2008, Deaf History Scotland has hoped to establish a Scottish Deaf History Archive and Museum in which the heritage of Scottish Deaf communities could be preserved and presented to visitors, school children and scholars. 

 

Despite developments in the recognition of BSL and its cultural contexts, too often Deaf heritage is ignored or devalued. As Deaf schools and Deaf clubs close, their records and artefacts are discarded, or packed away to be forgotten in basements, garages or attics. When elderly members of the Deaf community pass away, their hearing families are sometimes unaware of the value of their personal records, and they are lost. 

 

A Deaf-led Scottish Deaf Archive and Museum would provide an invaluable space for research and celebration of Scotland’s rich Deaf heritage.   The formal curation of British Sign Language and Scottish Deaf History would provide a valuable repository and new ways of understanding our towns and cities through Deaf eyes.

 

Without funding or institutional support, Deaf History Scotland is attempting to compile miscellaneous records of Scotland’s Deaf communities. In 2017 we rented a small room in the basement of Deaf Connections in Glasgow, and since then donations from the Deaf community have come in thick and fast. 

 

"Our committee, consisting entirely of volunteers, has painstakingly unpacked the contents of bags and boxes (which are often in poor condition) and carefully catalogued and stored them in archive-appropriate boxes and folders. So far, we have over 40 collections, including those relating to Deaf schools, Deaf clubs, Deaf organisations and individuals, and have catalogued over 700 discrete items – some dating from as far back as 1834! 

 

But we have not been successful so far in securing funding for the project, and it depends entirely on private donations. If you would be interested in supporting us, please contact us on

secretary@deafhistoryscotland.org.uk"

Historic Environment  Scotland 

 Display

“Historic Environment Scotland cares for over 300 historic properties. Of these, 77 are staffed as paid visitor attractions, and more than 200 are free to visit.

How should we provide information on our sites in BSL?

 

The number of sites we look after presents a huge challenge, so we decided to focus first on our two biggest sites – Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. At these sites we could test things, ask Deaf audiences for feedback, and work out what people would enjoy most.”

In the Inverness Workshop, we had the opportunity to display a great example of what good practice looks like. Historic Environment Scotland illustrate the journey started in 2015 that in collaboration with John Hay and through consultations feedback from the deaf community, let to deaf led BSL tours in some of the key Scottish historic properties. 

 

Initial consultation

 

our questions

 

In 2015, we began looking at how we could improve BSL provision at our sites.

We had lots of questions to ask Deaf visitors:

 

• Some of our sites are quite expensive – what     would make paying entry worthwhile for a

  Deaf visitor?

• Would BSL users prefer a face-to-face tour or

  a digital device to guide them?

• When should tours/events be?

• What should the content cover?

• Should tours be delivered by interpreters or  

  Deaf guides?

• How should we let people know about events

  or tours?

 

Your answers

 

We consulted with lots of BSL users, both individuals and organisations, who told us:

 

• Deaf visitors would pay to see a good,

  Deaf-led tour.

• To prioritise face-to-face tours over

  digital devices.

• Content should be relevant to Deaf history

  and culture.

• That there are lots of Deaf experts out there.   We should embrace and use their knowledge!

• Tours should not be on weekday mornings when

  no one can come.

• To let people know a long time in advance,

  so that they can plan ahead.

 

“THE FUTUREGuiding principles
 

Having started our BSL tours, we want to ensure that they will always be:

 

• Deaf-led

• Containing content that celebrates

  Deaf History and culture

• Delivered by a Deaf expert who is paid for    

  their services

• Held on weekends, so that families can come

  What next?

 

Historic Environment Scotland has lots of aspirations for expanding their BSL offer. BSL events developed for families and they are continuing on their journey with the deaf community, asking for THEY would like to happen next?

 

(extract from Historic Environment Scotland display materials)

Ruaridh Lever-Hogg Art 

 Painter

An artist born and raised in the Highlands. He went to Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee, gaining a BA Hons in Fine Art alongside a Masters in Fine Art & Humanities. He ran workshops to teach art to the Deaf communities and Deaf organisations as well as in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

 

Ruaridh was a participant in the BBC's Big Painting Challenge 2017, overcoming the barriers that exist in communication between Deaf and hearing people.

 

He developed the Colour Soul Project as his Mastersdegree project in 2017. The concept of the project is that each person has their own unique character. Generally they all show their emotions through colours unconsciously. From the perceptive of colours, you can’t identify the real person without their characteristics.

 

More recently, Ruaridh's work over the past year has involved using tartan fabric as his canvas for oil paintings of people and animals. He blends his subjects into the background of the tartan revealing the individuality of his subjects.

 

www.ruaridhleverhogg.com

Collaborative Activities