How do we tell the story of disability? Museums have rich collections related to mental and physical disability, but choosing which objects to display and how to display them has a major impact on wider perceptions. The University of Leeds is working with the Science Museum to enable people to tell their own stories about disability. This story introduces the project and gives just a flavour of the range of possibilities for reimagining what disability and mental illness mean, how we talk about them, and how these ideas have changed over time.
In late June 2016 the Science Museum will be launching a new temporary exhibition called "Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care". The exhibition charts the impact of the First World War on medical practice and looks at the longer-term physical and mental effects of warfare, told through objects and first-hand accounts. We are interested in how audiences respond to these stories and enabling deeper reflection on how we represent the history of disability and impairment. It is a challenging subject and although curators often collaborate with people affected by these issues it is hard to convey the many experiences of veterans in a single exhibition. We hope to inspire people to tell their stories and share their experiences by reinterpreting the themes which run through "Wounded".
There is so much more to say about the physical and mental consequences of combat than can be told in a conventional museum exhibition. It is really exciting to think how digital storytelling could open up new ways of exploring the highly personal and individual experiences of disability. If you think you might be interested in working with us to explore these themes and tell your own stories about disability then get in touch. We'll be running a series of three events, exploring the Wounded exhibition, discussing the themes and issues which it raises and then creating some alternative stories using Yarn which reflect your experiences.
The strapline for the exhibition "Wounded" is "explore the remarkable medical innovations driven by the First World War". Just to be picky, I want to question how far this is the case. Are these innovations really remarkable? Are they all "medical", or is it more helpful and revealing to think of them differently? And were they "driven" by the First World War? They might have been, but it is important to remember that lots of these innovations might have come at the expense of other changes in medicine and that they could have happened anyway, even if the First World War had never taken place.