Comm. Disorders films preserved from '50s, '60s

By Dan O'Brien and Carole McFall
July 21, 2014

A recent grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation has allowed Emerson College to preserve three historical films documenting speech and hearing disorder treatment programs at the College in the 1950s and ’60s.

Emerson was the first college in New England and the second in the United States to open a department focused on speech pathology.

“It’s important to be able to reference the early days of treatment to see how far we’ve come,” said Betsy Micucci, director of clinical programs in Emerson’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, “and to inspire future generations with this important ongoing work.”

The earliest film was made in 1955, about two years after Emerson’s Robbins Speech and Hearing Clinic first opened. The clinic is now called the Robbins Speech, Language, and Hearing Center and is overseen by Communication Sciences and Disorders.

The 1955 film, titled Robbins Clinic, is five minutes long and created by the “Women’s Committee” at Emerson to promote the clinic to the Boston community. It shows key faculty members who established the clinic working with children with speech and hearing disorders.

The second film, Strong Hand—Helping Hand, was made in 1960 and is also about the Robbins Clinic. It provides the only existing footage of Emerson’s Back Bay campus during this time period.

Thayer Lindsley Nursery is a 10-minute color film from 1966 promoting the Thayer Lindsley Parent-Centered Nursery for Hearing-Impaired Children, which had opened a year earlier. The film shows how children with speech and hearing problems in the 1960s were treated using various techniques and the latest hearing aid technology. It also includes candid discussion with mothers of hearing-impaired children and Professor Emeritus David Luterman.

The former nursery is now called the Thayer Lindsley Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants and Toddlers and is a program within the Robbins Center that provides group and individual services to young children and their families.

Since the Robbins Speech, Language, and Hearing Center first opened in 1953, Emerson faculty members and students have treated scores of children and adults with communication problems and provided educational programs for family members and caregivers. The center is also the primary clinical training facility associated with the College’s nationally respected Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. NFPF supports activities nationwide that preserve American films and improve film access for study, education, and exhibition.

The Emerson films will be available through the College Archives, which also maintains the College’s publications, graduate thesis projects, photographs, and audiovisual collections, as well as the Special Collections and American Comedy Archives. For further information, contact archives@emerson.edu.

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