National Association of the Deaf

Historic NAD Film Selected for Preservation by Library of Congress



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The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) film "Preservation of Sign Language" by George W. Veditz was selected to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress along with other films such as "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back", "All the President's Men", "Malcolm X", and "Saturday Night Fever".

"Preservation of Sign Language" was part of a collection of films produced by the motion picture committee of the NAD specifically to preserve early American Sign Language on film from 1910 through 1920. The NAD at that time was concerned that "pure" sign language might disappear under the pressures of oralism, and made these films so that future generations might see master signers of the past. In 1965, the NAD transferred these films to the Gallaudet University Archives for preservation and to make them more available to the public. Appreciation goes to the Gallaudet University Archives for making the NAD "Preservation" film publicly available.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Library of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant, to be preserved for all time. These films are not selected as the "best" American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring significance to American culture.

In a press release by the Library of Congress the NAD film is described as follows:

Presented without subtitles, "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.

"Indeed, our National Association of the Deaf has raised a fund of $5,000 for this purpose. We have made a number of films. We have films of Edward Miner Gallaudet, of Edward Allen Fay, of John B. Hotchkiss and Robert MacGregor and many others. I regret that we do not have $20,000, for we could have used it all. If we had this amount of money, we could have performances in sign language, sermons in sign language, lectures in sign language. And not only would we American deaf enjoy the benefits of this, but no -- deaf people in Germany, in England, in France, in Italy would also see these moving picture films. Fifty years from now, these moving picture films will be priceless." - George W. Veditz (as translated from the film by Carol A. Padden)

"This selection is a tremendous honor and indeed our film by Veditz has remained priceless nearly 100 years after the fact," said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins. "This film came during a time w