This week is extremely important to the deaf community.
Preservation is how we can continue to access our history even decades later.
Preservation is how we have access to the past years after an event has happened.
This year, the 2020 theme for Preservation Week is "Preserving Oral History." During this week many libraries will be participating in the national campaign to help raise awareness to the public about the importance of preservation and strive to enhance knowledge of preservation issues.
The week, which began ten years ago, is an initiative of Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association (ALA); Library of Congress (LOC) and Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
In the years since its inception, the week has garnered the support of twelve corporate sponsors and partners to help bring about recognition and progress. The week will continue to bring awareness and action towards preserving deaf history as we move forward to the future.
Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future – Ray Bradbury, award-winning author of more than three dozen books (1920-2012).
In terms of preservation, here in Maryland we already have the FOLDA collection.
It provides a rich history of the deaf community in addition to library resources.
The world could learn a lot about deaf people from browsing it today. One interesting fact that could be learned from FOLDA is that the DC public library was the first public library in the world to purchase the TTY. The TTY was basically the phone of deaf people before text messaging and instant messaging was used in computers.
Before the purchase of the TTY, the deaf had no access to the library in the same way that hearing people did. Hearing people could use the library to make phone calls, well now deaf people could too.
In 1974, some staff at DC public library learned sign language, and that was followed by a full week of deaf cultural activities which included a song in sign language, "I Hear Your Hands," presented by Rita Corey. The late Mary Jane Rhodes, a hearing mother of a deaf adult, a volunteer at the NAD, and Dr. Robert Davila from Gallaudet campus made a speech during this program. During the program, the late Frederick C. Schreiber was the first deaf person to call the library from his office at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in Silver Spring, MD.
Preserving deaf cultural history is as important now as it has ever been. Events like the one with DC public library would be lost without proper preservation of history. Even major events like the founding of the deaf university, Gallaudet University, must be preserved alongside the smaller events to provide a comprehensive picture of deaf history.
Deaf Culture Preservation Week provides us with an opportunity to look back on the past and work together to preserve it for the future. Without dedication to preserving the past, there will be no future for the deaf community.