Industry called on to dig through archives as plans for National Disability Museum take shape
Dave Thompson MBE DL, Co-Founder and CEO of Warrington Disability Partnership & Disability Trading Company, is looking for companies and individuals in the industry to contribute any artefacts for an ambitious National Disability Museum.
The Warrington-based charity is currently working on plans to introduce the UK’s first National Disability Museum, an educational hub showcasing and sharing the rich and sometimes remarkable history of disability.
Speaking with Dave Thompson MBE, he told THIIS that he had first started to consider the history of disability whilst working on a disability timeline with the NHS five years ago. Six months ago, he decided to do some more research into what was currently in place in the UK and was surprised by what he found.
“After doing research, I came to realise that the heritage of disability is just not out there,” he explained.
“There are a few timelines here and there, a Learning Disability Museum in London, a Deaf Museum being developed in the North West, and a Paralympics project, but there is nothing that takes a pan-disability approach, looking at the social and medical models, advantages in technology and the real-life experiences of those with disabilities.”
Keen to change this, Dave posed the question of a national museum dedicated to the broad spectrum of disability on his social media networks and received what he described as “an overwhelmingly positive response from people”, leading the motivated CEO to take the idea further.
Working on taking the project further, the Warrington-based charity has recently created a discussion paper highlighting the need for such a project and what would be required to deliver a museum.
Dave explained that the museum would showcase how disability, its understanding in society and the innovation that has been developed to provide solutions has changed and evolved over the decades.
“We have spoken with curators from different general and specialist museums and they have explained that a mixture of industry artefacts, such as equipment and implements that have been created and used over the years, as well as the real-life stories of those individuals who used them, give fascinating insights and really help tell the story of disability,” said Dave.
These artefacts could be anything, from early crutches and wheelchairs spanning back to late 19th and early 20th centuries to the light blue invalid carriages or “Noddy cars” of the 1970s, which were banned from UK roads in 2003.
“Undoubtedly, the three-wheeler Noddy cars look bizarre and rudimental when compared with what we have on offer today, however, they did have their day and actually brought about independence and mobility to a generation of thousands of disabled people at that time,” continued Dave.
“If you consider that now someone like myself is driving around today in a modern car with over £40,000 worth of hand controls, we wouldn’t dream of having one of those old three-wheeler cars, but, at that time, it was the state-of-the-art technology giving people back their independence.”
Considering the history of disability, Dave says he is convinced there are tons of pieces of equipment and intriguing stories hidden away that would make for an engaging and educational museum and he is calling on people to get in touch and share.
“We are currently looking for expressions of interest in terms of individual display items or collections, either loaned or sold to the Museum. So far, we have had people offering equipment dating back as early as the 1850s, as well as someone offering us one of those aforementioned invalid carriages,” said Dave.
“We have so many companies that have been in the industry for generations and are likely sitting on a treasure trove of interesting artefacts. These could be pieces of equipment, photos, early design plans and more that help tells the tale and motivations behind a piece of equipment.”
Alongside donations of stories and artefacts, the charity is also looking for funding needed to bring a project manager on board to help drive the endeavour forward.
Those wishing to share their thoughts on the project, disability stories or donate products or funding to the National Disability Project can contact Dave Thompson at DaveThompson@disabilitypartnership.org.uk