Finding collections relating to d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people

One of the aims of our project is to make collections relating to d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people more visible – and to share some of the objects our Fellows and Trainees are discovering.

Some will have quite obvious connections to disabled people’s lives – a walking stick, some braille or images of disabled people. But we will also be exploring less obvious connections too. Sometimes the significance of an object is its owner; its part in a bigger story, or the way someone with lived experience of disability has responded to it. In this way we hope to broaden the ways that d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent stories are told.



Rights information: Copyright: Hastings Museum and Art Gallery


This is a pair of leather boots worn by a child. Paupers placed in workhouses would be divided into different categories such as the able-bodied, the sick, the elderly and children. On arrival, children would be issued with boots like these. As well as being clothed and fed, they would also receive some schooling in return for several hours hard work each day.

- Jack Guy, Curating for Change Fellow, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Community curation: When I was about 15 years old, I bought a small pair of clogs from a shop in my then hometown of Bingley in West Yorkshire. I still have them today, over 50 years later. Researching ‘boots issued to poor children in workhouses’ for the Curating for Change project has made me look again at my own treasured little pair of clogs. Could they have been worn by a child forced to work in the mills in Bradford; had they been passed down from child to child as little feet grew out of them; had they been issued to a poor orphaned child as they were being placed in a workhouse? If only these little clogs could speak.

From my research I have learned that disabled adults were often housed separately from non-disabled people in workhouses and were not considered suitable for work. Whilst I found it difficult to find information on what happened to disabled children in workhouses, it does seem that often those children classed as ‘feeble-minded’, or ‘idiots’ were - like disabled adults - also segregated. This was in an effort, it was considered, to reduce crime and degeneracy in society.