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A Compelling Story Part II

November 2, 2011

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

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.


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.


Jeff Harris is director of Local History Services. He constantly travels the state for his job, giving him the opportunity to pursue his dream of finding the perfect mashed potatoes.

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