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Hidden histories of disabled mill workers

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By Gill Crawshaw   George Thompson worked at Gotts Mill, now  Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills in Yorkshire, UK, in the 1840s. George’s job was as a handle-setter, putting teasels into metal frames which were fitted onto a teasel-raising gig. This machine was used in the finishing stages of cloth making, there’s an example of one in the Industrial Museum. The cloth would pass over the spines of the teasels in the gig to raise the nap of the fabric. It was then cropped to give it a smooth surface.  The Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeds_Industrial_Museum_at_Armley_Mills George was a young man who lived near the mill in Armley. Jobs preparing teasels for cloth-finishing were usually done by young men and boys, and perhaps George had started work as a preemer, sorting and cleaning the teasels. His boss reported that George “acquired the business equally fast, and as well as others” and reckoned that “when he is of age he will be a

Siegfried Braun and the First Austrian Cripple Working Group

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  By Volker Schönwiese and Angela Wegscheider As an organiser of self-help groups and a political activist, Siegfried Braun (1893-1944) co-founded the Erste Österreichische Krüppelarbeitsgemeinschaft (First Austrian Cripple Working Group), a disabled people’s organisation oriented towards emancipation and social rights. In 1943, the Nazis deported Braun, identified as an Austrian-Czech Jew, to the Theresienstadt ghetto. He was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.   Portrait of Siegfried Braun, Chairman of the Cripple Working Group Source: Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung, 17/12/1926, 7 The contemporary disability rights campaigns are influenced by and embedded in historical processes and narratives. Siegfried Braun was a key agent of an early disability advocacy movement. Sharing his story can be considered as a “usable past” in understanding the present and building a different future (Longmore 2003). By using archive material, among other media-coverage of Braun and his group in the 1920s and

Craft and Curiosity: A Dedication to Laura Bridgman

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By Claire Penketh Histories of art education reflect and reproduce normative assumptions that making and appreciating art is dependent on sight. Such beliefs are founded on ocularnormativity, defined as an ableist predisposition towards the visual that renders us incapable of imagining or valuing a world without vision. In essence, ocularnormativity is an epistemological position that delimits the parameters of human value and worth (Bolt 2014: 14). This key concept has been employed to support my reading of histories of art, craft and design in the nineteenth century, alongside two texts: Pioneers and Perseverance, Michael Royden’s history of the Royal School for the Blind (1991) and Perkins School for the Blind by Kimberley French (2004). This short piece centres of the creation of a craft response to some of the themes emerging from this work.  Craft from the earlier form ‘cræft’ suggests a form of power and skill (McDonald 1970: 306) present perhaps in its resistance to ocularnorma

Not ‘Fit for Nothing’: William Henry Hunt

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By Emmeline Burdett   A couple of weeks ago, I saw a charity advertisement which discussed a young autistic man who painted, allegedly because he found it ‘therapeutic’. I felt that this was a rather patronising comment, because, whilst many people find painting therapeutic, the advert’s use of the word in connection with the (frankly unnecessary) information that the young man was autistic, seemed to imply that it did not matter whether he was any good at it or not, when, from the evidence of his paintings, he was extremely talented. The assumption that one is not really any good at anything is something that often dogs not just disabled artists, but disabled people who do anything – particularly if what is being done is unusual or unexpected. This experience of unreasonably low expectations is something which makes it possible to identify not just with disabled people (and, obviously, with other people) who are subjected to this in the present, but also with those who encountered sim

Inside the History of Learning Disability

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 By Owen Barden Inside the History of Learning Disability was a 2018-2020 participatory project on the history of learning disability. The project focused on two points in time, the mid-19th  Century and the present day. It thus spanned the history of institutionalisation. Although participatory methods are becoming more common in inclusive research, and in learning disability research particularly, it is – as far as we can tell – unique in using this approach with digital archive material. “We” are two teams of researchers who worked on the project. One team was based at The Brain Charity and Liverpool Hope University, in Liverpool. The other team came from the Teaching and Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) at the University of South Wales. The teams were made up of people with learning disabilities, their families and advocates, and academics. One academic worked with the Liverpool team and one with the TRAC team. We used material from a digital archive called the UK Medical Herit

Hadamar from the inside

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by Christoph Schneider   When U.S. troops advanced to Hadamar, a little village in the Northern part of the Federal State of Hessen right at the border to North-Rhine-Westphalia, in late March 1945, they encountered a Nazi "euthanasia" killing facility. Unlike a concentration camp, which ceased to exist at the moment of liberation, the institution remained in function. Initially, very few people were arrested: the head physician and also the head nurse. The head of administration had escaped. This means that in the first months after liberation - at least until June, in some cases until November 1945 -, patients were often confronted with the same personnel as before. However, patients could now escape with impunity, and the U.S. military administration increased food rations for the often extremely debilitated inmates. Nevertheless, the word "liberation" promises a caesura that did not exist in Hadamar.   There were survivors of Hadamar, but in fact these people we