Celebrating British Sign Language
17 March 2014
RAMM is displaying a 200-year-old mug depicting the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet to mark the British Deaf Association’s Sign Language Week 2014. Celebrating the Government’s official recognition of British Sign Language as a British language in its own right on 18 March 2003, sign language week aims to raise awareness and strengthen Deaf rights. It runs from Monday 17 to Saturday 23 March.
Matt Jenkins, Deaf Instructor at Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, commented: “This mug is symbolic of our Deaf history – showing the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet from ca. 1820. Knowing that sign language was banned from education at the Milan conference in 1880 – we have come through, gaining strength to finally achieve recognition of BSL in 2003. We are proud of our identity, our language and our culture. This mug represents our journey through to today.”
Film yourself for the Academy
The Academy is inviting everyone to join in the celebrations by filming themselves fingerspelling their names and uploading their videos to the Deaf Academy website
See the mug
The mug will be on display from Tuesday 18 March in the Visitor’s Choice Viewpoint. It was chosen for display by Jenny Durrant, Assistant Curator of Antiquities, who was delighted to find it in the store amongst other pottery in the Decorative Arts collection. Having learnt the BSL alphabet at junior school, she recognized the images and was intrigued to learn the mug’s age from her colleague, Curator of Art John Madin. “I hadn’t realised the signing alphabet was invented that long ago. I also wonder why this mug was made? It is decorated with transfer-prints rather than hand-painted so it was a mass-produced item…”
Join a behind-the-scenes tours
Visitors wishing to share this sense of discovery can book places on behind-the-scenes tours of the museum’s on-site store. Normally only available for groups, individuals can book places online for tours on Thursday 17 April, Thursday 29 May and Saturday 14 June. Groups of 6 can book tours by emailing [email protected]. Tour participants are invited to choose an object for public display in one of the six viewpoint windows.
Image: 200-year-old mug depicting the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet