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: Museum of English Rural Life


Horse riding hat involved in an accident.

The horse bucked the rider, who fell head first into the farm track, but the riding helmet protected the rider's head. The high density expanded polystyrene layer absorbed the impact and is cracked. The rider was assessed for a potential head injury, but her head is fine and she has made a swift recovery.

This was displayed as part of the Extra.Ordinary exhibition at the Museum of English Rural Life. This exhibition relates the stories of six disabled individuals living in rural settings around the UK. Their experiences of collective struggle and resilience are illustrated through objects from The MERL collections. The display was curated during Disability Pride Month, which celebrates the pride that people feel whilst challenging the systemic ableism and discrimination that they face.

Community curation: This is Rhiannon’s story, ‘A Life Transformed’, the helmet was selected to accompany her story. Rhiannon spent her career running a successful advertising firm while her husband kept horses, which she loved. Rhiannon became disabled at 40 years old. She fell while horse riding, breaking her back and becoming instantly paralysed. She had to relearn everything except to speak, and had to find a new identity amongst this extreme lifestyle change. At times she felt undignified and alone, as everything in her life had changed, yet everything around her – friends, family – remained the same, they just saw and treated her differently.

“I went home and had to go out and be among the people I used to meet and be with, friends and acquaintances, whom I used to know how to interact with before the accident. But everything was different now. When I returned home I could hardly do anything, none of the things I used to…”