College of Arts and Humanities

Clemson ASL recognized by ‘The Vineyard’s’ museum


A recent partnership between a Clemson University American Sign Language faculty member and students has produced a special recognition on Martha’s Vineyard.

An exhibit on Martha’s Vineyard deep-rooted ties to the deaf community in the 19th and early 20th centuries is displayed in the iconic island’s museum into mid-February. A sign inside Martha’s Vineyard Museum “gratefully acknowledges the contributions of” assistant professor of American Sign Language (ASL) Jody Cripps and his students in helping shape the exhibit.

The exhibit called “They Were Heard: The Unique Voice of the Martha’s Vineyard Deaf Community” tells a “big story about inclusiveness, which is welcome in our time, often fraught with tensions around otherness,” according to a feature story from

A profile photo of American Sign Language assistant professor Jody Cripps.

“It is only with the warm and welcoming hearts of the people of Martha’s Vineyard that made this collaboration possible,” Cripps said. “We continue to explore the meaning of community here on this island.”

Cripps has led more than a dozen ASL students to Massachusetts as part of a Creative Inquiry to initiate a community outreach program to help revive Martha’s Vineyard Signed Language (MVSL). Research has determined deaf settlers arrived at Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1690s and spread out into the towns of Chilmark and West Tisbury. The unique language effectively evaporated when the last resident who knew and used the language died in 1952.

The Creative Inquiry and other institutions work to preserve and educate the public about the area’s unique history. To read about the group’s most recent trip, click here.

Exhibition photo courtesy Brie Moose.

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