Maintaining the Stories of the Deaf Communities at Gallaudet

2019-10-04T20:47:27Z (GMT) by Julie Hochgesang Emily Shaw
Hochgesang, Julie A. & Emily Shaw. (Oct, 2019). "Maintaining the Stories of the Deaf Communities at Gallaudet" Conference Presentation at Maintainers III Conference, Gallaudet University, Washington DC.

Abstract: American Sign Language (ASL), the language of the American Deaf communities, is about two hundred years old. But no widespread written language to represent ASL has ever been developed. This means there is no direct textual representation of the stories that have been told. But as soon as video cameras were invented, ASL stories have been filmed. Vast video resources beginning in the early 1900s that showcase multiple discourse genres produced by Deaf people from all over North America are available at Gallaudet. But they’re scattered and inaccessible. We detail efforts of an emerging project, Gallaudet University Documentation of ASL (GUDA), to digitally centralize and organize existing ASL video collections at Gallaudet University. That is, we are trying to maintain the stories that have been told at Gallaudet since the advent of filming in the early 1900s by drawing upon best practices of digital archives and language documentation to provide more direct representation of ASL stories.
Although the challenges of representing a language with no written form continues, best practices of signed language documentation provide solutions that enable accessible representation of ASL through digitally shared resources that can be time-aligned to primary data using annotation software (ELAN, 2018) along with the ASL Signbank (Hochgesang et al, 2018). The underrepresentation of sign languages in general has led to repeated misunderstandings of the project and devaluing by stakeholders and funders. However, it is through the description and subsequent uses of this unique collection that the community value will become apparent. It is the primary aim of this project to compile and maintain a representative, accessible and lasting ASL resource for, by, and with the Deaf ASL community furthering the ideal of representation through documentation. GUDA then is the representation of ASL stories through combining ASL videos and data archiving protocols.