SignDNA: An NZSL and deaf community visual history archive

SignDNA advertising graphic

SignDNA is a national archiving project aiming at preserving the visual history of NZSL and the NZ Deaf Community.

Film and video are the only ways to record NZSL and therefore the cultural uniqueness of the Deaf Community, so it is very important that this heritage is preserved, both for current and future generations.

SignDNA has been trying to raise funds for this project for almost a year, however is currently no closer to its goal. However SignDNA is confident of gaining funding for the website that will house the archive, and believe that it will be built by the end of 2013:

Without an archive it is very difficult to obtain funding for the cost of converting the films to digital files. So this may take longer to achieve, and creates a problem we are now trying to solve, which we will explain below.

The Deaf Community have been wonderfully supportive of the project so far by donating hundreds of heritage films and videos. However while we have sought funding for other parts of the archiving project, we have discovered around 50 at-risk films in our collection that are in immediate need of conversion to digital files. They are in such poor physical state that they risk becoming unplayable, and therefore of losing their rich cultural contents. These films cannot wait for charity funding, and so we are compelled to act now to try and save this heritage. An example of such films can be found at

Therefore we have begun a financial appeal to the Deaf community and all New Zealanders to help contribute financially to the project, and to help save these films, as we cannot wait for charity funding; the films need urgent attention.

We know this is not the best time of the year to be asking for donations, but we really have no choice. In December we set up a fundraising page with the crowd sourcing website PledgeMe: Overall, we are seeking $10,000 for this appeal, which is the cost of digitising and processing only the 50 most at-risk heritage films, and so far we are still only less than halfway. The appeal expires on 27th January, and if we do not reach our target then we receive none of the money pledged so far and we are right back to square one (pledges are only processed if and when the target has been reached). We need your support if we are going to be able to save these heritage films.

Once established the archive will provide access to a rich collection of Deaf history, humour, culture as well as linguistic marvels as we can see NZSL growing and changing over time. This will be a great resource for many, including school children, Deaf and hearing, who can finally access an element of Deaf history online. The long term value of this project cannot be overstated, and so even a small amount of financial support now will have a huge pay back in years to come, but we do need to act now to make it happen.

We are in equal measure determined and desperate to achieve this milestone, and have these films preserved. So we ask you to consider this request for support, visit our PledgeMe site:, view some examples of the videos we are trying so hard to preserve, and check out the rewards we are offering to sweeten the deal!

Thanks again for your consideration, and with your support we can make sure 2013 is remembered well as the year that NZSL heritage found some friends!

Kind regards,
Sonia Pivac & Catherine Greenwood
Project Managers – SignDNA