Penn Museum to offer tours for the hearing impaired

Power Down Results Actor and comedian CJ Jones signs the “Highlights of the Galleries” tour in American Sign Language at the Penn Museum and brings new expression to the objects in the galleries. Photo credit: Penn Museum

The Penn Museum is developing multimedia tours for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, scheduled to begin this fall. In partnership with Sign World TV, an entertainment company serving America’s 30 million deaf and hard-of-hearing, the Museum will produce a “Highlights of the Galleries" tour delivered in American Sign Language.

The video tour will feature Sign World TV founder and deaf actor/comedian CJ Jones, whose many credits include guest spots on “Frasier,” “Cold Case,” “A Different World” and “Sesame Street.” The tours will be available to the public on iPods as well as downloadable files on the web.
“It was a remarkable process to witness as he had to fingerspell many of the proper nouns like ‘Merenptah’ and ‘Kebensenuef,” says Amy Ellsworth, the Museum’s digital media developer and keeper of the Penn Museum Blog. “Occasionally, his hand would wilt after a particularly challenging word.”
The project began as the brainchild of Penn Museum’s IT specialist, Jason Stefaniuk, an active member of Philadelphia’s deaf community who died last October. It was his vision to initiate programs for the deaf community at the Penn Museum in coordination with the Penn Language Center.

In December, the Museum hosted a fundraiser that generated $4,000 for the project. Jason’s colleagues have dedicated the new tours to his memory.

Originally published on August 19, 2010