Million pound program could transform the way museums deal with disability history – Disability News Service

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Groundbreaking program – backed by National Lottery funding of nearly £ 1million – aims to transform the way disability history is represented by museums, to tackle the inequalities people with disabilities face in their workforce and improve access.

More than 20 museums across England will participate in Accentuate Curating for Change internship program, supported by £ 950,900 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Accentuate hopes that the project will improve the way the history of disability is represented in museums and improve the accessibility of their collections.

Over the next 30 months, it will offer 18-month scholarships to eight people with disabilities – and 40-day internships to eight other people with disabilities – who wish to pursue a career in the museum sector.

Each of the fellows will spend their 18 months researching a museum’s collection, with the aim of “uncovering hidden stories about people with disabilities”.

Esther Fox, Head of Disability at Accentuate, said: “It is crucial that these stories are interpreted and presented from a lived experience from a disability perspective to ensure a nuanced and authentic portrayal.

Only four percent of the museum workforce currently identify as disabled.

Fox said: “Currently there is a significant lack of representation of people with disabilities in museums, both as staff and within collections.

“This is not only unfair, it is also a sorely missed opportunity to understand new perspectives on heritage and ways to meaningfully engage a wider range of people with museums.”

Accentuate says the history of people with disabilities is rarely exhibited in museums, while there are few objects in the collections that reflect this history.

He hopes his project will mainstream change within participating museums, with lessons that can be shared across the sector, and provide an “indispensable platform” for curators with disabilities to demonstrate their skills and ideas.

Fox (on the picture) said: “We have undertaken an important consultation with d / deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in the development of Curating for Change.

“We heard about the many obstacles they faced.

“More specifically, inaccessible recruitment practices, a lack of flexibility in terms of remote and“ on-site ”work, a lack of flexibility in working hours, employers not understanding the support available (such as Access to Work) .

“In addition, many jobs require extensive qualifications or the ability to do physical things such as driving, lifting boxes, climbing ladders, which is often impossible for people with disabilities, even though they would be able to complete the job. role in all other ways.

“There is also a significant problem with entry level jobs.

“Some people we heard about said that they had gone through some sort of training program, but then were not considered sufficiently experienced to take on a curatorial role in a museum, but they were too experienced to pursue training or internship programs. , so they were stuck in a catch-22 situation.

“The grants aim to address this transition to a career as a curator and to help museums seek ways to meet access needs rather than seeing them as barriers. “

All scholarships and internships will be paid roles and will include mentoring and professional development support, opportunities to connect with museums participating in the program, as well as access and travel grants.

The project will also set up disability heritage co-production groups in each of the scholarship-hosting museums – with additional funding from the Art Fund – to support research and offer advice on content creation, and test different and accessible ways of interpreting disability. -related, both digitally and in the museums themselves.

Museums participating in the program include the British Museum, Museum of Liverpool, Black Country Living Museum, National Railway Museum in York, Museum of London, and Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds.

Fox said, “The entire industry is committed to improving fairness and representation and Curating for Change will propose the activities that will make this change a reality.

Accentuate has also established a Museums Strategic Disability Network, which includes museums and organizations such as the Museums Association, the Research Center for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester, and the Association of Independent Museums, and organizations led by people with disabilities working in the field such as VocalEyes and Dash Arts.

The network will use the lessons of the program to help identify policy recommendations and develop an action plan for the wider sector.

Accentuate works to create opportunities for people with disabilities in the cultural sector and is part of the cultural development agency Screen South.

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