This post was first published on December 28, 2010 ]
“As long as we have deaf people on earth, we will have signs . . .”
– George Veditz, Preservation of Sign Language, 1913
The National Film Registry announced that “The Preservation of Sign Language” is selected among 25 culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films in this year, showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board’s selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The press release posted today on Library of Congress’ website, and it states:
“Preservation” is a two-minute film featuring George Veditz, onetime president of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) of the United States, demonstrating in sign language the importance of defending the right of deaf people to sign as opposed to verbalizing their communication. Deafened by scarlet fever at the age of eight, Veditz was one of the first to make motion-picture recordings of American Sign Language. Taking care to sign precisely and in large gestures for the cameras, Veditz chose fiery biblical passages to give his speech emotional impact. In some of his films, Veditz used finger spelling so his gestures could be translated directly into English in venues where interpreters were present. On behalf of the NAD, Veditz made this film specifically to record sign language for posterity at a time when oralists (those who promoted lip reading and speech in lieu of sign language) were gaining momentum in the education of the hearing-impaired. The film conveys one of the ways that deaf Americans debated the issues of their language and public understanding during the era of World War I.
“The Preservation of Sign Language” is one of the most important piece of Deaf History, and it all started in 1910 when National Association of the Deaf formed Motion Picture Committee with its goal was to to preserve sign language. NAD members donated $5,000 dollars, which was a significant amount of money to make this project happen. Several films were produced, and they were stored away for several decades until in 1965, these films were transferred to Gallaudet University for preservation. Eventually, these films were professionally transferred to videotapes, and Sign Media, Inc., sells them with a portion of the proceeds from the sales go to the Gallaudet University Archives in support of archival and preservation work.
Source: Gallaudet University – Veditz’ Collection
For more information, Sign Language Studies journal published an issue focusing on film preservation.
Sign Language Studies, Volume 4, Number 3, Spring 2004.
Go to this link to read abstracts here.
Now, this film is recognized by The National Film Registry to be preserved for the posterity.
All of the work which George Veditz and many other people did with this project in 1910 through 1920 is been nationally recognized as one of the culturally and historically significant work ever!
Amy Cohen Efron