Cogswell Heritage House
The American School for the Deaf (ASD) founders were well aware of the groundbreaking importance of their new endeavor, and they and their successors saved a great many letters, teaching aids, illustrations, books, and other objects. These items remained in the school’s possession and now form a rich collection that has become a credible base for research among graduates, historians, genealogists, authors, editors, and scholars.
This carefully organized collection includes the histories of deaf education, religion, Hartford, and the United States. It also links ASD’s heritage and regional impact with its contributions to the Deaf Community as a whole.
The school’s first museum was organized in the Historical Room of the Gallaudet Building in 1967, and expanded in 1977. When renovations to the Gallaudet Building were planned in 2008, the archives were relocated to the former
Principal’s House on campus.
Collaboration with other historical societies, research, and new discoveries have also broadened the school’s collection. Additions to the archives over the years have been most welcome, but it has become a challenge to showcase objects in the museum’s current location without physical barriers. Understanding the importance of spatial elements, ASD is currently exploring on-site options to, once again, expand its museum with an eye towards improved design, layout, access, circulation routes, and
ASD knows that the best way to meet the challenge of engaging visitors and teaching its history is through careful planning. Along with added space, look for upgrades that will include better graphic panels and object labels, additional displays of photos/map /drawings/art (currently in storage), handout leaflets, seating, model objects, and expanded library, research, and storage facilities.
Also planned are interactive exhibits, events, audio (narratives, music, etc.), video (ASL interpretations, archival film, interviews), and activity stations.
The ASD community is proud of its historic collection and will continue to preserve its past and cultivate its future. All those who share this interest are encouraged to consider a gift to American School for The Deaf Archive Fund, or recommend the names of others who may have an interest, or assist in building the archive collection.
Among the thousands of items in ASD’s collection are:
- Over 3,000 letters, including original correspondence from the Abbe Sicard, Laurent Clerc, Thomas Gallaudet, Alice Cogswell, and Hartford notables.
- ASD’s Act of Incorporation dated 1816.
- ASD Board of Directors Reports, beginning 1816.
- Documents relating to the first state aid and first federal aid to special education in the history of the U.S.
- Treasurer’s records and account books, beginning 1817.
- Original Books of Student Admissions, beginning with Alice Cogswell.
- Periodicals including American Annals, Volta Review, Silent Worker, Deaf American, Christian Observer.
- Furnishings that include Thomas Gallaudet’s office chair and steamer trunk, pieces made by students in early cabinet classes, Civil War parlor pieces, print shop type cases, Victorian drawing board, and many items from the E. M. Gallaudet home on Woodland Street in Hartford.
- Rare volumes that include the oldest book on sign language “Chirologia” dated 1644, Sicards’s “Theorie des Signes” dated 1808, Sibscota’s “Discourse Concerning Those that are Deaf & Dumb,” dated 1670,Mattson’s “Adventures of an Enthusiast” 1835, Collection of published books for Deaf children by Thomas Gallaudet, Collection of textbooks written by ASD teachers and published at the school.
- An extensive library of textbooks, fiction, biographies, reference, schools, as well as local/state/U.S./foreign histories.
- Portrait paintings of Thomas Gallaudet, Laurent Clerc, Eliza Clerc, Lewis Weld, Henry Camp, Henry Perkins, Frank Wheeler, Walter Rockwell, and others.
- Works by 19 th and 20 th century deaf artists: John Carlin, Augustus Fuller, James Whitcomb, Cadwallader Washburn, John Brewster, Albert Newsam, Charles Parker, Algot Anderson, Harry Moore.
- Personal belongings of Thomas Gallaudet, Laurent Clerc, and Alice Cogswell.
- Early educational tools used in ASD’s classrooms, including vocabulary charts, broadsides, printing press, lantern slide projector, electricity generating machine, chemical balance scale, and slates.
- Items made by students in early shop and trade classes.
- Letters and essays by the school’s earliest pupils.
- A substantial photo archive of over 35,000 original photographs.Since that time, ASD’s archival inventory has been significantly enriched by generous donations from friends and alumni.