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American Sign Language: Signs of Compassion

What is ASL?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Read more...

About the Artist

A lifelong resident of Westport and a full-time graphic artist since 1972, Miggs Burroughs has designed hundreds of logos, ads, brochures and now websites for commercial and nonprofit clients throughout Fairfield County. Among his most notable projects have been designing the Westport Town Flag, an Easter Egg for Reagan's White House (which is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution), a U.S. Postage Stamp, four covers for TIME Magazine and, more recently, Tunnel Vision on Main Street. As a member of the Silvermine Guild in New Canaan and of the Westport Arts Center, he has won much acclaim for his cutting-edge lenticular imagery and is one of only about a dozen artists in the country working in this medium. Learn more...

Signs of Compassion

Westport photographer/graphic artist and the Library's Artist-in-Residence Miggs Burroughs pairs his signature, "animated" lenticular imagery with the visual poetry of American Sign Language (ASL) to express a poem about compassion by Emily Dickinson. Entitled "Signs of Compassion," the exhibit features 30 Westporters signing segments of the short poem, written around 1864, that begins "If I can stop one heart from breaking." With the exception of Noah Steinman, who's a fluent signer and helped Burroughs pose each person's hands as closely as possible to the actual ASL signs, the people in the images are neither deaf nor fluent signers. Rather they volunteered to help Burroughs introduce this simple but powerful poem to both the hearing and hearing-impaired communities in a purely visual way.

An opening reception for the artist will be held in The Great Hall on Friday, May 26, from 6-7:30 pm. And on Wednesday, June 14, from 6-7 pm, the Library will continue its Artist-to-Artist series in The Great Hall, with Burroughs changing seats this time from doing the interviewing to being interviewed by fellow Westport artist Katherine Ross. The art is on view from Friday, May 19, 2017 - Thursday, Jul 27, 2017. Learn more...


Rocket Languages

With Rocket Languages, you can access an exciting online resource that allows you to learn a language at your own pace through interactive lessons. To get started, all you need to do is create an account here-- then get started learning American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Exhibit: 200 Years of Impact by the American School for the Deaf

Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library

In 1817, the American School for the Deaf (ASD) established the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States. It created a new standardized language—American Sign Language—resulting in a deaf community and culture that continues to advance equality. Learn more... 

Part One: Life; VI

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

Origins of ASL

American minister Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a prominent figure in the education of the deaf, traveling to France in 1815 to study methods of communication. In 1817, upon his return to the United States, Gallaudet founded the country’s first school for the deaf, in Hartford, Connecticut. Read more...