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Deaf Museum and Archive

UK Deaf Museum and Archive

Deaf Museum and Archive

Manchester Deaf Centre
Crawford House
Booth Street East 
M13 9GH



Manchester Deaf Centre, Crawford House
Booth Street East,
Manchester M13 9GH

"Set up in 2006, the Deaf Museum and Archive has grown into a credible national collection consisting of numerous artefacts, deaf artwork and paper archive collections of all kinds.

We have been closed for 16 months since March 2020 due to COVID-19 Government restrictions but we have now reopened in Manchester Deaf Centre thanks to grants from the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Cultural Recovery Fund."


"The Deaf Museum had its first trial opening on Friday evening 1 October 2021 with a cheese and wine event for our trustees. This was followed by two group visits by members of Manchester Deaf Centre who have been anxious to look round the museum while it was going through re-construction. Other successful trial openings were made during November 2021.

We will be open to groups wishing to visit the Deaf Heritage Centre after February 2022. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for an arranged visit for groups of people.

We will be open for drop-in visitors on the following dates (all Saturdays):

26 February   10am-3pm
26 March   10am-3pm
23 April  10am-3pm
21 May   Spring Workshop (see below)
26 June   10am-3pm

It should be noted that we have now become the Deaf Heritage Centre from 1 November 2021."

Update 2:

" We have recently appointed a new part-time Curator of Heritage and Collections for the Museum and another part-time position to take charge of our Deaf archives as an archivist."

mini fingerspelling sweater photofingerspelling sweater 1

Maureen Jackson about one of the exhibits at the Museum: a sweater with fingerspelling (BSL with English Voice Over, December 2021)


My name is Maureen.  
Do you think the Deaf Museum is really important especially for the future of our children?

Yes, we've got artefacts from 1600s. And then what happened in terms of banning sign really bolted. Still this is around, but the museum which is really, really important.

 I think we need to preserve as much as we can for the future of deaf children, and people should be aware of possible of the Deaf history and also value it.

I think a real life Museum is better rather than an online facility. I mean a website is useful, but it's nice to touch.

On a website, you can't do that you see just 2D images, not what to actually be in the room as these artefacts.  

On a web site you perhaps got access to lots of things. It's different, but that's my view. I think that real artefacts is really important.

I am going to explain about this jumper only watch the unique type. Let me just see when this was made. It was found and donated in 2010.

Somebody was clearly destroying stuff into a scale. And a person saw this beautiful jumper.

They knew it was linked to the deaf community and then managed to save it and they donated it to the museum here.

The fingerspelling chart is on the jumper. Very, very valued, very valuable with fingerspelling stamps on it.

Do we know who made it? Nobody knows anything about it.


A fieldtrip to British Deaf Museum and Manchester Deaf Centre

by Junhui Yang, UCLan, December 2021

The twenty BSL & Deaf Studies students at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan, UK), 2 senior lecturers and 2 interpreters went to the Manchester Deaf Centre to  visit the British History Museum. The Museum recently located from it’s previous address at Warrington.

The new displays were expansive and much more visual than in its previous home. The first display that catches the eye is a huge Deaf History timeline on a banner (see photo 1). A UCLan logo is included in the timeline because our Deaf Studies course established in 1993. We felt proud.

Poster Deaf Museum Manchester

Photo 1

The students were welcomed by Director of the British Deaf History Museum Peter Jackson and volunteer Maureen.

Peter gave a presentation explaining that although the British Deaf History Society was established in 1993, the Deaf museum was established in 2006. Peter also explained how they had diligently built up a huge archive of historical documents and equipment relating to Deaf people. Two staff members (in Museum Studies) then gave the students a personal guided tour of the museum, stopping to explain the background to each exhibit and the reason why they were displaying it.

 deafblind equipment BDM

 A display about DeafBlindness

The students found it incredibly useful to be able to see and touch the documents and objects which they had preciously studied and heard about from their lectures at the university (see photo 3 &4 ).

Photo Peter Jackson Photo of students
Photo 3 Photo 4


The students were thrilled by their experience and said it had enriched their understanding and appreciation of Deaf culture and a greater appreciation of their degree course.

They also visited the Deaf club in the Riley Bar and meeting room were local Deaf people regularly meet and host workshops such as the “Where is the interpreter?” Campaign. There they saw a tribute and photo of DR Terry Riley OBE, a hugely influential Deaf figure from Manchester (see the photo 5 & 6).

Terry Riley Tribute Terry Riley Tribute 2
 Photo 5  Photo 6

 Three members of staff in the Salford Deaf Advocacy Service explained their roles and the services they offer the community of Greater Manchester. Two presenters, Dani and Claire, graduated from the BSL & Deaf Studies course at UCLan. They also encouraged the current students to come and work in their voluntary service which would help the local Deaf community and also benefit the students ongoing learning and understanding of the Deaf community (See photo 6). We already have 3rd year students volunteering within their service.

Students listening to presentation



  • "For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.
    One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."
    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "This (Deaf) Museum is not intended as a casual show, to be seen once and forgotten. Its pretensions are nobler; it has a humanitarian aim. By its solid and tangible evidences, making history memorable and attractive by illustration, it serves a double purpose: to dispel ignorance and prejudice regarding the deaf, and to raise the victims of this prejudice and ignorance to their true level in society."
    The British Deaf Monthly, Vol. VI (p.265) 1897. In: Deaf Museums and Archival Centres, 2006
  • "Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.
    With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."
    BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016
  • the past can hurt

    From: Walt Disney, The Lion King

  • "The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "An important matter for any minority group is that written documents in public archives are often drawn up by the majority group and do not always reflect a minority as it sees itself. Thus, preserving sign language narration is of the utmost importance and a challenge to those working in the field of Deaf history."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • “If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”
    Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
  • "Deaf mute, deaf and dumb, hearing impaired – the choices are many and not without consequences. Words have many meanings, they convey attitudes and prejudices and may hurt, even when used in a well-intended context."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "Nina Simon has described true inclusion in a museum context as occurring when museums value the diversity in their audience, value those individuals’ potential and contributions, when they actively link those diverse people across differences, and when the organisation reaches out with generosity and curiosity at the core.
    On a practical level this sort of museum practice would see widespread inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning of museum exhibitions, on museum boards and steering committees, and working in curatorial roles."
    In: Corinne Ball: Expressing Ourselves, 2020
  • "After all, we are all of us explorers, and we all have much to bring to each other from our own
    Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.
  • "The Finnish Museum of the Deaf) was founded by deaf people, and, thus, its task has been to strengthen their identity and historical communality.

    Most of our materials have a connection to the key experiences that generations of deaf people have shared. These are important in understanding the past and keeping the collective memory alive."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • “Stories of disability are largely absent from museum displays. Where they appear, they often reflect deeply entrenched, negative attitudes towards physical and mental difference. Research reveals that museums don’t simply reflect attitudes; they are active in shaping conversations about difference.
    Projects created with disabled people show that museums hold enormous potential to shape more progressive, accurate and respectful ways of understanding human diversity. Why wouldn’t we take up this opportunity? ”
    Richard Sandell, co-director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester
  • "The most significant function of museums is as centres for cultural democracy, where children and adults learn through practical experience that we all have cultural rights. Having the opportunity to create, and to give to others, may be one of our greatest sources of fulfilment. Culture is everywhere and is created by everyone."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Access to and participation in culture is a basic human right. Everyone has a right to representation and agency in museums, and communities should have the power to decide how they engage."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Until the fall semester of 1986, the history department at Gallaudet University had never before offered a course in the history of deaf people.
    In the 122 years, to that point, since the founding of the university, which was specifically intended for the education of deaf peoples, no one had ever taught a course about this very group of people.
    In all of those years the history department had offered courses on a wide range of topics but never deaf history. "
    ENNIS, WILLIAM T., et al. “A Conversation: Looking Back on 25 Years of A Place of Their Own.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–41. 
  • "What has become clear is that museums don’t just function as custodians of the past anymore; instead, they have embraced their responsibility towards the communities of the present: a responsibility to represent them, to speak to them, and to be open to dialogue with them."
    Tim Deakin, August 2021
  • "And yet, even within a large and, in many ways, traditional organization such as this (Trøndelag Folk Museum, Norway), the museum's encounter with Deaf culture contributed to profound changes and a process, still underway, which challenges our own understanding of what a museum is today, our role in society and our obligations towards more diverse audiences than those we had previously engaged or even recognized."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "It was only during the past decade that recognition of the importance of preserving Deaf history has emerged. In the main, Deaf heritage, culture and folklore has been passed down from generation to generation via the medium of sign language and fingerspelling. (..) It is also vital that the history of Deaf people is made available to future generations, especially Deaf schoolchildren as part of their history lessons."
    A. Murray Holmes,  in: Cruel Legacy, an introduction of Deaf people in history, by A.F. Dimmock, 1993
  • "Inclusion is moving from “we tolerate your presence” to “we WANT you here with us”.
    Jillian Enright in The Social Model of Disability, 2021
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: Museums Change Lives
  • "Histories have for too long emphasized the controversies over communication methods and the accomplishments of hearing people in the education of deaf students, with inadequate attention paid to those deaf individuals who created communication bridges and distinguished themselves as change agents in their respective field of endeavour."
    from: Harry G. Lang, Bonny Meath-Lang: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, 1995
  • "Opening ourselves to the Deaf community, listening to and respecting them as co-creators and experts telling the stories they want told, makes our practice richer, and has ongoing positive effects for the community.
    These embryonic relationships hopefully encourage Deaf people to feel welcome in our space — it’s their space too.
    For both side, communities and museum professionals, while genuinely, openly and truly committing to working together can be time-consuming, it repays any investment many-fold."
    Corinne Ball: Expressing ourselves’: creating a Deaf exhibition", 2020
  • "Beyond works of art and objects, museums collect shared heritage, memories and living cultures as well as what we call intangible collectables."
    Source: We are Museums
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/museums-change-lives/
  • “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.”
    Chris Cleave in "Little Bee", 2008
  • "The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. This is based on the principle that citizens are not just consumers of cultural capital created by others; we have agency and the right to contribute through culture to the wider good of society."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "As recently as the 1970s, deaf history did not exist. There were available sketches of various hearing men, primarily teachers, who were credited with bringing knowledge and enlightenment to generations of deaf children, but deaf adults were absent."

    In: Preface to: "Deaf History Unvailed, Interpretations from the New Scholarship". John Vickrey van Cleve, editor
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, 1993