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.


STRAITJACKET (Straitjacket)

Rights information: Copyright: Hastings Museum and Art Gallery


Straitjacket from Ticehurst House, former private asylum.

A straitjacket is a restraint device used from the late 18th Century until the mid-1960s in asylums and mental hospitals to contain patients or inmates as they were previously known in asylums. The design originated in France and was said to be invented by an upholsterer named Guilleret, who supplied Bicêtre Hospital. The straitjacket was intended to be a more humane method of management than the iron manacles, belts, ropes, and chains which had previously been used.

The large asylums, unfortunately, were often understaffed, with poorly trained attendants and ineffective treatments. In the absence of better facilities, the straitjacket became overused and, in some circumstances, became a form of punishment, threat, and abuse. In this setting, the strait jacket became symbolic of the darker histories of psychiatry and was abolished in the 20th Century.