Silent witnesses to history

David Seixas

John Carlin’s 1835 portrait of his teacher, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf founder David Seixas, is one of the historical items on display in the “History through Deaf Eyes” exhibit.

Today, many deaf Americans recognize themselves as members of a distinctive cultural and linguistic community. “History through Deaf Eyes,” at the Arthur Ross Gallery through July 28, explains that evolution.

The exhibit chronicles the history of deafness in America, from the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Conn., to the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, the world’s first institution of higher education exclusively for the deaf. Along the way, the exhibit shows how deafness became a way of life as much as a medical condition, and the arguments among the deaf and their teachers and advocates that stemmed from this evolution.

Organized by Gallaudet and the Smithsonian Institution, the touring show’s local stop includes historical artifacts from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, the nation’s third-oldest school for the deaf and the exhibit’s local co-sponsor, among them 19th-century portraits and miniatures by John Carlin, one of the first PSD pupils.

“HISTORY THROUGH DEAF EYES”: Through July 28 at the Arthur Ross Gallery, 220 S. 34th St. Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free.

Originally published on July 17, 2003