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A Compelling Story Part II

Back in March, I blogged about a visit to the Indiana Deaf Heritage Museum located at the Indiana School for the Deaf. They were in the process of moving their museum and setting up a new exhibit.

We met and chatted about how they might reach their audience by developing compelling stories that would help them connect to some of the broader themes they were interested in presenting. Many students at the

Keith
Keith Selke, Indiana Deaf Heritage archivist, at the entry to the new museum.

Indiana School for the Deaf looked at the school as a second home – a place where they were able to communicate easily and where they had friends. Many students felt isolated and had difficulty communicating with non-deaf friends and even their own families who didn’t understand sign language although many families did learn sign language.

The new museum, although small, is filled with compelling stories of students learning, growing, and figuring out their place in the world – something we all struggle to do, whether deaf or not. One area tells the story of A Girl Named Annie.

Annie Cooper came to the Indiana School for the Deaf as a child (in 1911, if I remember correctly). She wore large black-rimmed round glasses. In highlighting Annie, Indiana Deaf Heritage brought the story of the new kid at school to a very personal level. I viewed the Indiana School for the Deaf and its students through Annie’s eyes. What could have become a rather impersonal story about a building and the people that used it became a touching story about one kid leaving home and going to a boarding school with all the worries and concerns that any one of us would have.

Jerry
Jerry Cooper, Indiana Deaf Heritage president, next to A Girl Named Annie.

History museums have the power to use objects and photos to connect us to a particular story and then use that story to bring the broader picture into focus.

There is a lesson to be learned by history groups – the story is not about the building; the story is about Annie.

The Indiana Deaf Heritage Museum is in the Indiana School for the Deaf, 1200 E. 42nd St., Indianapolis, IN 46205 and open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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