RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive

The RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive exists to ensure that the cultural heritage and lives of the NTID and connected Deaf communities are preserved so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The goal is to increase knowledge of the history and culture of NTID and connected Deaf community members and strengthen identity formation and pride.

The RIT/NTID DSA preserves and illuminates the history, culture, and language of the RIT Deaf community. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of ten colleges at RIT, was established by an act of congress and signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. After an extensive national search, RIT was chosen as the permanent home for NTID, and the first group of students arrived in Fall 1968. This significant archive of primary resources, artwork, videos and books documents the founding and growth of NTID and highlights the many remarkable contributions of Deaf, hard-of- hearing and hearing individuals affiliated with NTID. The Rochester area enjoys a vibrant Deaf community, and the Deaf Studies Archive represents the first time an effort has been made to preserve some record of this culture. From the papers of distinguished faculty to artwork by alumni to the records of a local Deaf theater group, this growing archive showcases the many talented and dedicated individuals affiliated with NTID and beyond.  Collection strengths include deaf education, deaf studies, deaf theater, deaf culture and technologies for the deaf.

If you have any questions or would like to view the collection contact Joan Naturale, NTID and Deaf Studies Librarian jxnwml@rit.edu or voice/videophone 585.286.4635 or ritarchive@rit.edu. The staff welcomes questions about any aspect of the RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive.

Anyone wishing to donate should contact Joan Naturale, NTID and Deaf Studies Librarian jxnwml@rit.edu or phone 585.286.4635.  Please supply as much information as possible about the collection, including historical background, size of the collection, and a list of materials. 

Among notable collections acquired thus far:

NTID Records

LBJ signing the National Technical Institute for the Deaf ActThis continuously growing collection includes records surrounding the founding of NTID, documents and memorabilia from the dedication of the Lyndon B. Johnson building, administrative records, photographs, slides, publications, posters for events at NTID, videotapes, films, newspaper clippings, and other printed records. Together they provide a picture of academic and cultural life at NTID.


Robert Panara Collections

Bob Panara with studentsThe first Deaf faculty member at NTID, and a key figure in the history of NTID, Robert Panara's collection of fiction, plays, mysteries, and romances featuring deaf characters was used in his literature classes for deaf students. A second collection features works by Deaf poets.Videotapes related to his teaching career and lifelong passion for ASL poetry and Deaf theater include recordings of classroom lectures and performances as well as an interview with renowned Deaf actor Bernard Bragg. Panara was hired in 1967 to assist in establishing NTID on RIT's campus.  He was instrumental in planning NTID's curriculum and preparing RIT's staff with ASL classes. He taught English at NTID and founded the Drama Club in 1970, which has grown into a full performing arts program with numerous productions yearly in the theater at NTID named in his honor.  Click here to visit the online finding aid.

Harry Lang Research Files

Harry Lang has taught at NTID since 1969, first in the Physics Department, and later moving to become a faculty member in the Master of Science Program in Secondary Education of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. He is also a prolific author. The research files include materials collected by Lang for his books: Edmund Booth: A Deaf Pioneer; Teaching from the Heart and Soul: The Robert F. Panara Story; and Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences:  A Biographical Dictionary. The Panara collection includes original materials from Panara as well as correspondence and articles Lang collected while researching the book. Click here to visit the online finding aid.

Deaf Rochester Film Festival

Deaf Rochester Film FestivalThe first festival, held in March 2005, was a rousing success. Held every two years in Rochester, DRFF is a showcase for films by Deaf filmmakers and works that highlight the Deaf experience. The collection contains festival programs and videotapes of screened films for this important biennial event.  Click here to visit the online finding aid.  


Student Life Tapes

Cover of Deafvines The Student Life Team at NTID is dedicated to assisting students with all aspects of life at RIT. The collection consists of 52 videotapes from the 1990s, including the parody of student life, Deafvines: A College Life Soap Opera, the student produced series PAH! Deaf TV, and presentations by various invited speakers. 

Lights On! Deaf Theatre

Logo for Lights On! Deaf TheatreFounded in 1991 by a group of deaf actors from the Rochester community, the theatre group staged plays written by Deaf authors with performances by Deaf actors. This substantial collection documents the entire history of the group and includes meeting minutes, production notes, posters, playbills, tickets, and videotapes.


Lee Brody Phone TTY Collection

Picture of Lee Brody at a computerLee Brody, a pioneer in developing affordable TTY’s for the Deaf community, started a non-profit company called Phone-TTY. He sought out donations of teletypewriters, which he would refurbish and adapt for use with specially constructed modems, so that deaf and hard of hearing people could communicate over the telephone. He also developed the world's first Braille TTY used by deaf-blind users to communicate by telephone. His company also designed and produced a line of assistive devices, including doorbell and phone ringing light signalers and wake up devices. The collection includes records of Phone TTY and actual equipment – such as a Phone TTY telephone signaler for use with the Helen Keller Tactile Communicator, various models of TTY couplers, and a pocket TTY and couplers. Company records include correspondence, invoices, logo artwork and advertisements. There is also a sample tape in Braille derived from the Braille TTY.


 First TTY

Picture of the first TTY in a caseIn May 1964, Dr. James C. Marsters in Pasadena, California and Robert H. Weitbrecht in Redwood City, California made history with the first long distance TTY phone call between two deaf persons using a regular telephone line. This is the actual modem used by Dr. Marsters for that first phone call between the two men. These beginnings led to the widespread use of the TTY and the opportunity for Deaf individuals to connect and communicate, no matter the physical distance. Donated by Harry Lang, this TTY is on permanent display on the first floor of The Wallace Center.


Newby Ely Collection on Deaf Holocaust Survivors

Tapes of collector and historian Ely's interviews with deaf World War II holocaust survivors. Ely made several trips to Europe and travlelled to several cities to seek out these individuals, many of them quite aged, to make sure their stories were told and documented.

Newby Ely Deaf Movies Collection

Poster for the movie "Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears"A celebration and compendium of the many roles that Deaf people play in movies. The collection includes posters, press books and movies that feature deaf actors or deaf characters collected by historian and film buff Newby Ely.


Patti Durr Collection of Deaf Holocaust Survivors Interviews and Films

Patti Durr began her career at NTID in 1990. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural and Creative Studies. Durr has been instrumental in developing Deaf Studies Courses at NTID and is actively involved in the community. This collection includes original tapes of interviews Durr has conducted with deaf survivors of the holocaust. Also found in the collection are copies of interviews conducted by Simon Carmel, former NTID faculty, testimonies from the New Jersey Deaf Jewish Convention and two films created from the interviews. See the website created by Durr, NTID Library Liasion Joan Naturale, and website developers and designers Simon Ting and Cathy Clarke, NTID Instructional Developers, at: http://idea3.rit.edu/paddhd/deafww2/index.asp.  


Deaf Women of Rochester Records

Deaf Women of Rochester RecordsDeaf Women of Rochester was organized in 1981 as a support group to share timely information and aid members in dealing with the pressures of home, family, work and school. The group sponsored educational programs and workshops on a variety of topics related to health and wellness and women's issues. The organization has grown, and continues to thrive, with an expanded focus on professional development, networking and promoting personal growth. The organization can proudly claim that it is the oldest organization for Deaf women in the United States.


Empire State Association of the Deaf Records

Founded in 1865, the Empire State Association of Deaf is the oldest state association of the Deaf. ESAD became affiliated with the National Association of the Deaf in 1941 and received its incorporation papers in 1942. The organization advocates on local and state levels for the rights of Deaf and hard-of hearing citizens. This extensive collection of administrative documents includes correspondence between board members and branch representatives, meeting minutes, financial records and convention proceedings dating from the late 1930s to the mid 1990s.


Eugene and Inez Petersen Collection

Picture of Eugene and Inez PetersenThis collection includes transcripts and videotaped interviews from Eugene and Inez Petersen’s project to interview "everyday Deaf people" in the United States. They intended to compile the interviews for a book, but tragically, the Petersens were killed in a car accident before the project was finished. Two NTID staff members took over the project, and published the oral histories on the web. This web site forms part of the collection and can be found at: http://library.rit.edu/depts/archives/deafhistory/


Works by Various Artists

This collection of original artworks by deaf artists includes works by a number of well-known NTID graduates, including Susan Dupor, Rita Straubhaar, Robin Bartholick and Michael Joliffe as well as faculty members Paula Grcevic and Patti Durr. Also included are works by Uzi Buzalgo and Paul Johnston. For more information on deaf artists visit the website: deaf art/deaf artists.


Ahira Webster Diary and Papers

Ahira Webster papers contains a personal diary, photocopy of a portrait of Ahira Webster, a short biography, a copy of an 1899 issue of Deaf-Mutes Journal and an 1849 annual report and documents of the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. Click here to view these papers.


deaf art/deaf artists

This collection includes materials collected for the website International Archive of Deaf Artists, created by NTID faculty member Paula Grcevic, librarians Sue Mee, Marcia Trauernicht and Romea Montanero and RIT student  Beth Nicole McKeown. This site was the first website devoted to deaf artists. A new and expanded site, deaf art/deaf artists superseded the first. The collection includes slides, correspondence and copyright releases.


Frank Caccamise Collection

Materials related to NTID faculty member Caccamise's work on sign language assessment instruments and sign language instructional materials. Caccamise's primary work at NTID has included development and application of sign language assessment instruments with both NTID students and faculty/staff, development of sign language instructional materials with a focus on materials for technical communication, and research on identification and follow-up for visual impairments of NTID students.


Ralph L. Hoag Collection

Papers, photographs, and publications of Ralph L. Hoag, who served as Executive Secretary to the National Advisory Board that established NTID. Hoag held many positions related to the education of the Deaf and spent 8 years as Superintendent of the Rochester School for the Deaf, from 1966-1974. Also found in the collection is research for his manuscript The Origin and Establishment of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (1989) which details the work of the National Advisory Board in planning for NTID and the steps undertaken to choose the home campus that eventually brought the school to RIT.


NETAC (Northeast Technical Assistance Center)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, NETAC is located on the RIT campus. The organization provides outreach and technical assistance to postsecondary programs in the Northeast, serving individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The collection includes the newsletter and various educational materials produced by NETAC.


Stephen Aldersley Collection

Materials related to major Deaf organizations (1891-1994) and their accomplishments collected by NTID faculty member Stephen Aldersley.  Aldersley joined the faculty of the NTID English Department in 1980. He served as department chair from 1991 until 2008 and has since served as interim associate dean for academic administration at NTID. Research topics include how deaf students learn English, curriculum and assessment of English language development among deaf students and the history of organizations serving deaf people.


Shannon Bradford Collection

Research papers related to Bradford's thesis on the National Theatre of the Deaf and dissertation on the Australian Theatre of the Deaf.


National Theatre of the Deaf

Programs and special booklets about NAD and their productions, 1967-1989.


Samuelson Collection

Correspondence, promotional materials, and convention programs related to Mr. and Mrs. Claude Samuelson's work with the Rochester Civic Association of the Deaf and the Empire State Association of the Deaf.