Disability History Month at Ancient House Museum: Touring exhibition and talk
23 November 2022
Ancient House is delighted to be hosting a touring exhibition called Nothing About Us Without Us, about the history of disability, created by young and disabled people living in Norfolk.
The initial idea came from Ancient House Teenage History Club alumni Bethan Rees. She worked with other young people to identify thirteen objects from across the Norfolk Museums collections which explore social attitudes to physical and hidden disability during the last 200 years.
Supported by Norfolk Museum Service’s youth engagement programme, Kick the Dust funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bethan worked via Zoom with groups that all include people with disabilities: the Norfolk County Council SEND Youth Forum to choose the objects, and the Time Turners at Stories of Lynn and three Kick the Dust work experience participants to research and write the text, create activities and design the graphic panels. Bethan wrote and illustrated an accompanying booklet to explain any tricky terminology, and also pitched successfully to accession two new objects to the toy collections of Strangers’ Hall Museum in Norwich!
The exhibition’s title – Nothing About Us without Us – informed all the decision-making, putting accessibility and disabled and youth voices at the forefront at every stage.
The exhibition opens on International Day of Disabled Persons, a United Nations-sanctioned day that is celebrated internationally on 3 December. The exhibition runs until 14 January 2023 and is free with museum admission.
Alongside the exhibition, Ancient House will also be offering an insight into how photographic historiography can reveal information about disability history. It has been said that disability is everywhere, once you start looking for it, but mostly missing from the history books – and all too often when we do see historical photographs of disabled people they are from medical records, and we never find out the person’s name.
On Tuesday 6 December at 2pm Cath Cartman, Researcher, will share her research from the Picture Norfolk archive, and describe how it led her to Ancient House Museum and a small book of local ‘characters’ called Dick, Teddy and Mr Keldell. The talk is free and can be seen either in-person at Ancient House or via live stream, booking essential.
Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk Count Council, said:
“This important touring exhibition gives young and disabled people living in Norfolk a voice to explore an often-neglected aspect of our history. The young people involved should be proud of their work in bringing these hidden stories to light. Alongside the talk delving into the county’s photographic archive, this programme shows the power of local collections and stories in connecting us to past lives.”
Bethan Rees said:
“Disability history is often overlooked when there is so much there, from individual stories to larger movements and changes. This exhibition, which right the way through its creation heavily involved input and creation from disabled people, myself included, aims to share stories of disabled people in Norfolk and discuss how attitudes towards disability have changed.”
The exhibition and talk are part of Disability History Month (16 November – 16 December) which is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of people living with a disability and raise awareness. In the UK, 1 in 5 people have a disability, 83 per cent of which are acquired during working life.