Forging Our Future – collecting to better represent Disabled people in Bristol

Posted on by Caroline James.

by Lee Hutchinson, curator of history

Photograph of a meeting / seminar with two people sitting at a table facing the room looking at notes. Next to them is a man on a podium. Behind them is projector screen with "Forging Our Future Resistance, Change and Leadership in Bristol's Disability Movement"

Forging Our Future is a dynamic project, managed by Bristol Disability Equality Forum and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Working in partnership with Bristol Museums and Archives, it explores the disability rights movement in Bristol from the 1970s to the 2000s.

A group of young Disabled people has collected a set of oral histories from local activists. Project coordinator Lori Streich has been listening to their stories:

“We’ve heard about how their actions achieved change – in law, in education, to transport provision, in the language we use, in access to buildings, to organisations delivering services, and more; and in the approach to all aspects of life through the development of the Social Model of Disability.”

This is the first time these local stories have been collected. They will be presented in the We Make Bristol gallery at M Shed in 2022. Later in the year, they will be published on a website and distributed to schools through a set of learning resources developed especially for this project.

Forging Our Future is taking the messages of the disability rights movement into the museum service. It is working with museum staff to identify areas for change, particularly at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Lori is so far enthused with progress:

“A group of people with lived experience of disability have visited BMAG and highlighted challenges in getting round the building and making the most of the treasure-trove we all find within. Museum staff have responded constructively and creatively within the constraints of this complicated listed building!”

Call-out for objects

Photograph of what looks like a seminar or meeting. There are people around several tables and a screen with a slide that says "Forging our future: Resistance, Change and Leadership in Bristol's Disability Movement"The History department at Bristol Museums is actively striving for equal representation in the collection. We are seeking to increase and enhance the small proportion of the collection that represents Disabled people.

In addition to oral histories, we are keen to collect 2D or 3D objects. Items may include the large or the small, the old or the new, the significant and seemingly insignificant. These could be machines, documents, photos, posters, badges, items of clothing or whatever has significance to you.

If you would be happy to donate, or know of others who may be able to donate items that represent the daily lives of Disabled people in Bristol, then please get in touch with Lee Hutchinson at M Shed, who will be able to advise further.

View what the museum service already has in its collection to represent disability.

For more information about the project, or if you would like to get involved, please contact:

Lori Streich, Project Coordinator
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 01179 541795


  • Bristol Disability Equality Forum manager Laura Welti speaking at the launch of Forging Our Future at M Shed, 30 November 2019. © Bristol Culture
  • The launch of Forging Our Future at M Shed, 30 November 2019. © Bristol Culture
  • Cover image: Disabled People’s protest, Arnolfini, 1989. © Ruth Pickersgill

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