The Deaf community in the United States is filled with a deep and beautiful mix of individuals, from artists to scientists, teachers to Peace Corp volunteers, and everything in between. When you visit the National Deaf Life Museum at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., you will learn about the people in this tight knit community, as well as the language, culture and history.
In our effort to highlight the best museums in Washington, D.C, we spoke with Meredith Peruzzi, Manager at the National Deaf Life Museum- Gallaudet University, to share what makes this museum special, why you should visit, and what you need to know before you head towards Union Market to explore.
Where is the museum located?
Location: National Deaf Life Museum, Gallaudet University, Chapel Hall, 800 Florida Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 (Union Market area)
Is the museum accessible?
A ramp is provided at the back entrance, and an elevator is available to the right of the front entrance. All staff are fluent in American Sign Language.
What topics does the museum cover?
The National Deaf Life Museum focuses on the history, culture, language and diversity of the Deaf community in the United States.
What is your museum’s claim to fame?
We are the only university museum in the United States dedicated to Deaf history and culture.
What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?
My favorite artifact is the desk of Gallaudet University’s first president, Edward Miner Gallaudet. It is fascinating to think about the work done on that desk, and the papers signed there, especially considering how small it is!
What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?
We host a variety of guest exhibitions, lectures, and other events each year.
Past and current exhibits include:
- Deaf HERstory
- Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers
- Then and Now
- Language, Culture, Communities: 200 Years of Impact by the American School for the Deaf
- We are Equal: The National Fraternal Society of the Deaf
- Deaf Difference + Space Survival
- The Life of Robert Panara, ’45 & H-’86
- Olof Hanson, Conspicuous Leader (1862-1933)
- Gallaudet at 150 and Beyond
- History Through Deaf Eyes
Are there guided tours available?
The museum is predominantly self-guided. Our staff are happy to answer questions.
How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?
Generally 60 to 90 minutes is sufficient to see both our main exhibition space and the annex.
What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?
Food and drink are not allowed in the museum. Your curiosity and questions are always invited!
Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?
We allow general photography but not close-up replications of exhibit materials.
What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?
We have not yet developed programming for children.
What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?
The museum offers original wood from the Chapel Hall floor, uncovered during the 2013 renovations.
Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?
There is no food at the museum, but adjacent to the museum annex visitors will find a cafe run by the university. We are also very close to Union Market.
What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?
We are developing educational handouts, but are happy to customize lectures for school visits.
What else should a visitor know before visiting?
The Gallaudet campus has a rich history of over 150 years – come learn about our important role in Washington, D.C.!
What are your normal days and hours of operation?
When the university is open, we are open from Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm. We are closed when the university is closed. Changes are announced on social media.
Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?
No, we do not have a coat room or bag check at the museum.
Is there parking available?
There is visitor parking on the Gallaudet University campus. Visitors should ask at the front gate for instructions on where to park and access the National Deaf Life Museum.
Is there an admission fee?
Admission is free and open to the public.