• Invisible & Under-Represented? Disability History, Objects & Heritage

    Conference: 22-23 March 2022

    About Invisible & Under-Represented

    The experiences and histories of disabled people, like other marginalised groups, are often absent or hidden the museum or archive. Almost twenty years ago, both Annie Delin (2002) and Catherine Kudlick (2002) separately suggested that the place of disability in our shared past has been 'buried in the footnotes' or the 'unglamorous backwaters of history'. How much has changed? More to the point, how much still needs to change and how might this shape how we look at the material preserved in museums and archives? Disabled people often develop unique relationships with the material world (Ott, 2018), and so perhaps objects offer opportunities to embed disabled people and their histories into the public consciousness.

    This student led conference seeks to highlight the work of researchers investigating object based histories of disability and/or the place of disability and disabled people in museums, archives and heritage institutions. We hope to create spaces to foster further discussion around these ideas and methodologies, whilst also reaching out to those unfamiliar with the study of disability or disability history. With this conference we hope to inspire new conversations between the academic and heritage sectors, sparking new ideas about how disability and it's history can be made more visible in the narratives they construct.

    Beige or brown album cover with an oval shaped portrait at the centre. In this portrait, a man wearing a white nightcap and dark blue coat is sat down and is drawing in front of a grey wall. A brown and white cat is sat down next to a jar on his desk. Beneath the portrait, there is an inscription in French. It says ' Geofroi Mind, Crétin, ne a Berne en 1768 et mort la 7 Novembre  1814'. Translates as 'Godfrey Mind, Cretin. Born in Berne in 1768 and died on 7 November 1814'. © The Trustees of the British Museum

    This album is thought to contain the artwork of Geofroie (Godfrey/Gottfried) Mind, a man who, in his lifetime and following his death, was labelled as a 'cretin', an 'idiot', and, later, an 'autistic savant'. It is housed is the British Museum Collection. © The Trustees of the British Museum

    This conference will be held virtually over Zoom between 22nd and 23rd March 2022. You can book your place using our Eventbrite page.

  • Landscape painting of a crowd of people. On the left a group of people are talking together and watching an entertainer. In the background in the centre, one man is driving a horse and cart  and is making the horse gallop. Another man is thrown from his own cart. In the foreground, two men (described as having dwarfism) are using mobility aids. One is on a low stool and using crutches, and another is in a small cart pulled along by two dogs. On the right is a black man (Billy Waters) playing the fiddle and dancing. He is dressed in blue and has a wooden leg. © The Trustees of the British Museum

    This 1822 print is entitled 'Butter Cups & Daisies a sketch from Low-Life', depicting a gathering and a race between two dustmen in their carts. In the foreground there are three men with impairments, at least two of whom were well known on the streets of London: a man with dwarfism on a stool with crutches, known as 'little Jemmy'; another man with dwarfism riding a dog cart (a cart pulled along by dogs); and Billy Waters, who plays the fiddle and dances, making his wooden leg visible. © The Trustees of the British Museum

    Programme: Day 1

    Tuesday 22nd March 2022: 11.45 - 18.30 GMT

    11.45 - 12.00 - Introduction

    12.00 - 13.10 - Nothing About Us Without Us: Collaboration and Co-Production

    Chaired by Kirstie Stage, this panel will consider the potential impact of collaborative methodologies on disability representation in museums and heritage organisations.



    • Miriam Hunt, 'Disability in the Museum: Discourse and Silence'

    • Henriette Pleiger, 'Experts in their own right – A transdisciplinary and participatory exhibition with and about people with Down’s syndrome'

    14.00 - 15.30 - Objects and Collections: Uncovering Links to the Past

    Chaired by Sam Brady, this panel will explore the potential that exists within collections to uncover links to experiences of impairment and disability, past and present.



    • Emma Yeo, '“Mine own deformity” (Shakespeare's Richard III): An autoethnographic response to scoliosis objects in modern museum collections'
    • Philippa Campsie, 'Tactile history: discoveries in a Paris archive'
    • Alice Conibere, 'John Carter’s 'Inventions and Specialities': Marketing 'Invalidism' in Victorian England'

    15.45 - 16.55 - Representation Matters: Making Disability Visible

    Chaired by Alexandra Morris, this panel will contemplate disability representation in museums and its impact on audiences.



    • Dr Amber Lloydlangston, 'Neglected History: Material Traces of Disability in Museum London's Collections.'
    • Dr Rafie Cecillia, 'The effect of positive representations of disability in museums on visually impaired visitors’ meaning-making and identity formation'

    17.30 - 18.30 - Keynote Address: Katherine Ott 'Museums, Ableism, and Sensory Justice'

    Katherine Ott will deliver the keynote address for the first day of our conference, which is entitled 'Museums, Ableism, and Sensory Justice'. Discussion will be chaired by Isabelle Lawrence.


    Abstract: Taking disability seriously disrupts the usual way museums and other institutions operate. The practical issues related to the daily workings of a museum often directly or indirectly encourage body shaming, random exclusions, and narrowing the use of the senses. The derogatory value placed on sensory experience and embodiment inevitably contributes to the trauma of museum visitors, museum workers, and eventually the planet. What if human rights treaties and inclusive design elevated sensory justice?

  • A prosthetic foot made from brown wood and rubber, with thick laces at the ankle. Designed to appear barefooted.

    The 'Jaipur foot' was designed by Pramaod Karan (PK) Sethi and Ram Chandra Sharma in 1968, and was intended to be both affordable and culturally appropriate, in contrast with other prosthetics available in India at the time. The future owners of these 'Jaipur feet' were involved in designing their own prosthetic, adapting it to fit with the activities that shaped their lives. Credit: Jaipur artificial foot, India, 1982. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

    Programme: Day 2

    Wednesday 23rd March 2022: 11.45 - 17.00 GMT

    11.45 - 12.00 - Introduction

    12.00 - 13.00 - Roundtable: Disability, History and the Public

    Within this roundtable discussion, four panellists will share their experiences of improving public awareness and understanding of disability history, and of working in collaboration with museums, media, disabled people's organisations and academics. Discussion will be chaired by Sam Brady.



    • Joe Blackley, Cardiff People First
    • Mark Wilson, People's History Museum
    • Vicky Hope-Walker, National Paralympic Heritage Trust and Heritage Centre
    • Professor David Turner, Swansea University

    13.30 - 14.40 - Creating a Difference: Art and Activism

    Chaired by Isabelle Lawrence, this panel will contemplate the relationships between art, activism and heritage, and the potential to inspire social and cultural change.



    • Dr Jenni Hunt, 'Different Truths'
    • Jenna Allsopp and Mattie Kennedy, ‘Documenting a DIY intervention into the invisibility of learning-disabled narratives in amateur film archives’

    15.30 - 17.00 - Heritage Making: Curating Disability Focussed Collections

    Chaired by Louise Bell, this panel will turn our attention to museums, archives and projects that place documenting, preserving and celebrating disability history at the heart of what they do.



    • Linda Marsh and Katie Sawyer, '"Accessing Our Own History: Disabled People's Archive"'
    • Dr Aparna Nair, 'A Faithful Friend!: Representations of Guide Dogs in 20th Century Visual and Material Culture'
    • Nicola Lane and Philip Milnes-Smith, 'Idealism and stigma in the case of a ‘Training College for Crippled Boys’'
  • Abstracts and Speakers

    Learn more about our speakers and their papers below...

  • Booking & Accessing the Conference

    Booking & Joining the Conference

    Interested? You can book your place at this conference using our Eventbrite page, linked below:




    This conference will be held online using Zoom. If you are booked onto this event, you will be sent a link in advance.

    BSL and Live Captioning

    Live Captioning and British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation will be provided throughout the conference. Live Captioning is being provided throughout by Stagetext throughout this event. BSL interpretation will be provided by Involve Interpreter (22nd March) and Remark! (23rd March).

    Recordings of Panel Discussions

    Each panel discussion will be recorded (dependent on speaker consent), and recordings will made available for a limited time to attendees who signed up via Eventbrite for accessibility purposes. It will not be made more generally availability for security reasons.


    Attendees will be contacted when the recordings become available. This will not be immediate to allow time for necessary editing.

    Industrial Action: A Note from the Organisers

    We have recently been made aware that the UK University Union (UCU) announced a new wave of strikes between 21st March to 25th March - the week of our conference. Unfortunately, due to funding restrictions, we are unable to delay the conference to a later date. Please note that funding for this conference is provided directly from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and administered by the Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDP) programme, which is based at the British Museum. This conference is therefore independent from individual universities, including those affected by the upcoming strike. We, the organisers, would like to express our support for those undertaking this upcoming industrial action, and do not intend for this conference to undermine their efforts. We therefore understand and respect that some audience members may feel unable to attending the conference during the strikes. However, we nonetheless hope that a wide audience will still be able to join us on the 22nd and 23rd March.


    Finally, there have been changes to our programming as a result of the upcoming industrial action, which are reflected on this website. The website will be regularly updated to reflect any further changes.

  • About Us

    Meet the Organisers

    This conference is organised by three UK-based PhD students whose research projects are being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Their studentships are funded as part of the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) programme, each of which are supervised and supported in collaboration with non-HEI (non-higher education) Partner Organisations, including the British Museum, the National Archive and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust.

    Photograph of Louise Bell. A white woman with light brown hair  and a black jumper smiling at the camera. Light purple background.

    Louise Bell (she/her)

    Louise is a second year PhD student at the University of Leeds, undertaking a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with The National Archives. Her research explores British state provision of prosthetic limbs in the two world wars, with a particular focus on the prostheses themselves and the lives of the men who used them.

    Photograph of Sam Brady. A white man with dark brown hair and a beard. Wearing glasses and a white T-Shirt with a red pattern printed. He is wearing a backpack with trees and a river/lake in the background. He is smiling at the camera.

    Sam Brady (he/him)

    Sam Brady is a third year PhD student with the University of Glasgow, undertaking a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the National Paralympic Heritage Trust. His research explores the political, social and technological history of sporting wheelchairs, and he has conducted a number of oral history interviews to build up an archive of information about this subject. Sam also has other research interests regarding the intersectionality of disability with other marginalised groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities. Sam is dyslexic, and identifies as neurodivergent.

    Photograph of Isabelle Lawrence. A white woman with shoulder length brown hair wearing a grey shirt and a white and blue necklace. Smiling and standing in front of a blurred background. Photo taken by Benedict Johnson.

    Isabelle Lawrence (she/her)

    Isabelle Lawrence is a third year PhD student with the University of Leicester School of Museum Studies, undertaking a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the British Museum. Her research considers the way collaborative methodologies can be utilised to improve disability representation in museums. In particular, she is interested in how involving people with lived experience of disability in decision making processes could help museums to navigate the difficult histories and ethical dilemmas embedded within their collections. Isabelle has lived experience of brain injury and grew up with Special Educational Needs. She has subsequently developed a personal interest in the history of learning disabilities and the construction of 'intelligence'. (Image Credit: Benedict Johnson)

    Meet the Conference Panel Chairs

    This conference is organised with the generous support of other postgraduate students, who will, alongside the organisers, chair panel discussions.

    Photograph of Alexandra Morris. A smiling woman with brown hair and who is wearing glasses and a white blouse with red flowers. Standing in front of a wall with a painting in the background.


    Alexandra Morris

    Alexandra F. Morris is a PhD student in history at Teesside University. Her PhD research focuses on disability during the Hellenistic/Ptolemaic Period, and prior research has focused on disability during pharaonic Egypt. Other research interests include creating more accessible and inclusive museums for the disabled community. She also is interested in Ptolemaic Egypt, Alexander the Great, and ancient Egyptian and Greek art, medicine, politics, and religious practices. She has an MA in Museum Studies from New York University, and an MA in Near Eastern Languages & Civilisations (Egyptology) from the University of Pennsylvania. Her BA is in Archaeological Studies, Anthropology, and Art History with minors in Classics and history from SUNY Potsdam. Currently, she is working as a module tutor. She has cerebral palsy and dyspraxia.

    Photograph of Kirstie Stage. This is a close up shot of Kirstie, who is smiling directly at the camera. She is wearing a black dress which has a circular pattern on, and a pair of long pearl-inspired earrings. She has long brunette hair, brown eyes and a circular face. This image is shot with a white background.

    Kirstie Stage

    At present, I am undertaking an MA in the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick, where I am in receipt of the Wellcome Trust Studentship. I am currently researching the rise in Deaf activism, Deaf culture and the passing of the 2003 British Sign Language Act. Previously, I received a First-Class degree in History and Politics from Queen Mary, University of London. From October, I will be at the University of Cambridge, carrying out PhD research into the labour and livelihoods of disabled people in modern Britain. Outside of academia, I have been a Parliamentary Researcher, selected as a UN Delegate for the Commission on the Status of Women, and worked closely with NGOs to investigate the intersection between gender and disability.

    Student Led Activity Fund

    Funding for this event is being provided by the AHRC through the CDP Student Activity Fund. This funding is awarded on a case-by-case basis to provide financial support that will enable AHRC funded CDP students to organise and facilitate events and activities beyond their own research.


    Additional funding is being provided by the British Museum to support this event.

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