From 1694 to 1952, on a Massachusetts island, a community with a large population of people with hereditary deafness prioritized the use of a shared sign language. Although the dialect shared between hearing and deaf inhabitants has since diminished, a Clemson University American Sign Language faculty member and his students are working to share and recover the remarkable story of the Martha’s Vineyard deaf community.

Assistant Professor Jody Cripps has led over a dozen students to initiate a revival of Martha’s Vineyard Signed Language through his Creative Inquiry course. One initiative, “They Were Heard: The Unique Voice of the Martha’s Vineyard Deaf Community,” was on display at Martha’s Vineyard Museum last July through February. The group plans to continue working with the museum by helping to move the exhibit online in an accessible format.

Photos by Ray Ewing

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