BSL in bloom

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post, I begin by reflecting on the projects and work I have been involved in recently, to share the discoveries and events along the way.

This week however, I was inspired by another blogger – Claire Newing – and her post on ‘Disability in the UK Government Web Archive’ on Wednesday. Claire talked about the various ways website design is geared towards providing additional assistance to those that need it. This made me think of the British Sign Language (BSL) video podcasts available on our media player that deserve highlighting.

‘Introduction to Family History – British Sign Language video’ podcast

According to Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID), there are an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing, and a number of our users both online and in person may need assistance due to this. We have hearing aid loops in our Reading Rooms and staff trained in BSL to assist people onsite. Our podcast series is designed to share our collections more widely offsite, and using BSL interpreters on some of them means this can be as inclusive as possible.

Of course, BSL podcasts are not the only area relevant to the Deaf community at The National Archives. Many files held here relate to deaf history, in particular a large number relate to the provision of specialist schools and education both in the UK and in the Colonies. A simple search of Discovery for example using ‘deaf’ and ‘school’ brings up 341 results, which would be greatly expanded with a range of keywords.

One of the most interesting documents I have come across relating to deaf history however, is a design representation from 1849. It is a beautifully detailed image of ‘The Mimosa or Flower Cornet’ registered for William Blackmore Pine of London:

BT 45/10 f.1897

The description with the design includes the following:

” ‘D’ marks leaves [which are] securely fixed to the spring and trumpet so as to present to the eye a wreath of flowers which may be readily adjusted to the head of the wearer by first distending the spring ‘A’ so as to embrace each side of the head and afterwards inserting the part ‘E’ in that ear which is the least susceptible of sound … Thus is will appear evident that by forming the trumpet so as to present the appearance of a flower it will be less unsightly that the trumpet ordinarily used by deaf persons …”

I have searched but haven’t been able to find an example of the ‘Mimosa trumpet’ having been used at any point, but if anyone can, please let us know!

For more information regarding deaf history research, I recommend visiting the website of the British Deaf History Society who are doing brilliant work in the area.



  1. Louise says:

    What a lovely and informative post thank you.

  2. […] he emigrated to Australia.  Pine designed hearing instrument himself, with this rather attractive flower cornet from 1849.  One page in The Times, (Tuesday, Jul 02, 1850; pg. 11; Issue 20530) has adverts for […]

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