ON HAND: Program books

This originally in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Here’s what I think is one of the best resources on deaf history.

Program books.

Yup. Program books. As I wrote last week, I’ve just moved to a new house, so this has been a summer of unpacking for me. I spent a lot of time today going through the boxes of program books picked up over the years from family and friends. The program books are from various places: basketball camps, athletic tournaments, conventions, conferences, and even pageants–dating back decades.

As I looked through these pieces of history, I marveled at all the details. I pored over listings of presentations at various conferences and read the biographies of renowned individuals. I also giggled at some of the photos of high school athletes at various tournaments–kids who are now community leaders and at the forefront of their professions. In these photos, they looked so innocent yet determined. Did any of them know exactly where they would be in ten, twenty years when they posed for these pictures?

Program books are also a great reflection upon how far we’ve come in certain areas, especially in the development of community identity. Workshop listings are also a great way to see who presented what, and see where these people are today. More often than not, these people are still working doggedly in their fields, still championing their causes, and still working for a better community.

And most important of all: these program books are genuine. They aren’t scholarly. They aren’t “research.” They aren’t fancy stuff. They’re simply developed by deaf people who want to have a successful gathering.

Being able to revisit history and remember events–whether present or not–and reading about people’s hard work are the sole reasons I think program books are the real remnants of deaf history.

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