History of Place

Posted on by Fay Curtis.

By Karen Macdonald, Engagement Officer

Even today, when principles of access are embedded in building regulations, disabled people still face exclusion or disadvantage in some social and working environments.

Just think of the current campaign to improve access for wheelchair users at music venues.

Rewind a hundred years or more and whole areas of public life were out of bounds to anyone who didn’t ‘fit the norm’. But since the middle ages, individuals have sought to make a difference through pioneering projects and buildings.

History of Place will highlight sites of importance in this little-known history, from early provision for disabled people through to the first purpose built architecture.

The stories of those who inhabited or designed these buildings, will provide new insights into the lives of disabled people across the centuries, and the prevailing attitudes, institutional processes and the legal instruments which controlled them.

History of Place is a national project run by Accentuate and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will culminate in exhibitions in London, Liverpool and Bristol. Local volunteers and young people will develop each exhibition through research and creative responses.

The Bristol exhibition will focus on the story of ‘The Guild of the Brave Poor Things’, set up by Victorian philanthropist Ada Vachell (herself deaf from childhood due to scarlet fever) in 1896. It provided a social space and a hub for crafts and apprenticeships for disabled children and adults, based on the model of the original Guild created in London two years earlier.

Through many changes, the organisation continued until 1987, and the Guild building still stands.  The exhibition will explore the commissioning of the building itself, and the lives and perspectives of those involved and influenced by it.

We are looking for contributions and volunteers. If you would like more information please get in touch with Grace Swordy.

Main image: © Bristol Archives

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