The Bowes Museum


The Bowes Museum in County Durham is home to “the Silver Swan” a clockwork automaton dating from 1773. The swan is the pride and primary exhibit at the museum. in 2008 the swan was taken away for major renovation, continuum (museum design specialists) asked eko to put togther a new film for use in it’s new exhibit. .


The film would need to be accessible to hearing impaired visitors. We discovered very quickly that there were various political issues surrounding signing on TV amongst the deaf and non deaf community.


We spent a long time researching the best way forward, and it became clear we would need a deaf signer as opposed to a hearing signer. Deaf people can tell if the person signing is deaf or not so we asked Ian a well known deaf signer who had worked on TV to work on the project.

One area that was difficult to work out was the time it took Ian to finish what was being said, he had to read from a script on an autoque and often he would finish 10 seconds after the dialogue. Another issue is that technical words were being used that did not exist at present in the signing language, these had to carefully created by Ian who was more than qualified to do so.


We discovered that the deaf community is very close and very proud of there abilities and there language. If they had gone to the museum and watched the film and they saw a hearing signer on screen they would have boycotted the exhibit or even complained to the museum themselves.

If we had not taken the time to research the problem, we could have ended up upsetting the deaf community by using a signer who was not actually deaf, this as we found out was a big no no. Ian through his interpreter gave us all the help we needed, and explained how things were perceived in the deaf community.