Tuesday, June 25, 2013

EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America

Check out the latest virtual exhibit on disability history, from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History!  From the press release:
        The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has just launched EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America to explore themes and events related to the history of people with disabilities in the U.S. and offer a new perspective on American history. This online exhibition is a first-of-its-kind image compilation that provides access to objects and stories related to the history of disability that have been collected at the museum for more than 50 years. The information is presented in English and Spanish, and the website is designed to be accessible to all users, including those using specialized software for vision or hearing impairments. All pages on the website follow federal accessibility guidelines, which are outlined on the site’s Accessibility Statement page.

        “Many stories and events related to people with disabilities never make it into the history books or shared public memories,” said Katherine Ott, curator of medical science at the museum. “Knowing this history deepens the understanding of the American experience and reveals how complicated history is.”

        The website explores such themes as identity and stereotypes; the importance of place, laws and legislation; home and daily life; technology, institutions and schools; eugenics; and work. Featured objects include prosthetics, adapted kitchen utensils, activists’ buttons and T-shirts, Section 504 (a federal law guaranteeing rights to persons with disabilities) protest artifacts, medical devices, text telephones for the deaf and Braille writers, wheelchairs, design plans for improving accessibility in public spaces and about 300 snapshots, tintypes and cabinet cards. Each image has descriptive detail.
Now here's my personal interest (in addition to my scholarly interest) in this exhibit.  It includes my son's first ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs), which were made for him in about 1998, and donated to the Smithsonian in 2002.  I haven't seen them since then--they look so tiny!  See if you can find them. 

Meanwhile, we posed for an "update" photo with one of the exhibit's posters, and with an array of all his AFOs since that first pair, including his current pair on his feet.
Mother and son, sitting next to a row of ankle-foot orthotics of increasing sizes; the poster for "EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America" is taped to the wall above the orthotics.  (Photo: Helen Turley)

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