Deaf Historians

Photo:Article of John Lilley's presentation in DST

Article of John Lilley's presentation in DST

Deaf Sussex Today

John Lilley; May 26, 2009 (12 people)

By John Walker

Deaf Historians

John Lilley, author of History of West Ham Deaf Club.

We had a great time last night with a presentation from John Lilley, an archivist/document restorer for 44 years, who wrote a book on West Ham Deaf Club and now working on the history of Deaf Badminton. 

John joined the National Archives when he was offered an opportunity for work experience from the local missioner, he ended up staying there for 44 years. During his experience, he realised the importance of taking care of old documents and photos that will have value in years to come. He offered advice on how to look after documents.

At one point, he was asked to take some old documents from the West Ham Deaf Club that were nearly disposed of, it was a bunch of documents in a black waste bin in a damp condition. He used his spare time at work to restore these documents back to readable condition; he began to discover a range of facts about the club. John, consequently, wrote a book on West Ham Deaf Club, which is now published.


Deaf people do have a collective history, which has a parallel existence to the local history. National policies in employment, education, human rights, access as well as trends in culture (higher culture and folklore) affects how Deaf people express themselves. Deaf history(ies) provide a new perspective on activities in Sussex. There is a lack of a medium that will promote these histories and make them accessible to a wider audience.

Everyone has a part of the history in their own homes in the form of letters, photos, videos and so on. There is a danger that they will disintegrate and become lost with time. The digitisation of these materials into archives for research and re-use is essential.

University of Sussex has several collections and a Mass Observation archive, where the lives of everyday people are recorded continuously. Notably, in a programme titled, "Housewife 49" (with Victoria Wood), the original archives are found in the University of Sussex Library. The writer/producer used these archives to write the script for a TV series, it brought the lives of unrepresented women into the fore, especially during the time when women were still repressed. Today, Deaf people's histories can not afford the same luxuries: their histories are left abandoned, unrecorded and forgotten.

The act of seeing a part of our own lives in an archive, database, book or a piece of text, reaffirms our place in the community and with society as a whole. There is a strong link between 'reminiscence' and 'health and wellbeing' that requires further investigation.

Article in DST (Issue 18/Aug 2009)
Article in DST (Issue 18/Aug 2009) (2875k)
Article on John Lilley and Our Space

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