Read our Celebrations document here – summarising the achievements of the History of Place project.
After three years, three exhibitions, countless craft and digital workshops, the participation of 128 volunteers and an audience of thousands, we have reached the end of the History of Place project. We wanted to make sure that all the good practice we developed doesn’t itself fade into history, so our final event with funders and policymakers at the House of Commons looked to the future, and what we need to do to make it routine, not exceptional, to place deaf and disabled people ‘front and centre’ – both in museum exhibitions and in the cultural sector workforce.
We were delighted to be hosted by Damien Collins, who as well as being MP for Folkestone and Hythe is the Chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund was also present. The support of these people and many others in the sector is what will signal the policy and political appetite for lasting change.
Over the last ten to twenty years the stories told by museums have undoubtedly broadened to represent a wider group of people. That process is very far from complete, but where it happens, it is often because museum staff champion areas that they feel passionate about. But in England, currently only 2.6% of museum staff identify as deaf or disabled – a tiny number given that in the English workforce as a whole, one in six is disabled.
Real and sustained change takes time and we believe it won’t happen unless there are deaf and disabled people working as part of our cultural organisations – at all levels. Esther Fox
Therefore the Accentuate programme, which created History of Place, is currently looking to create a professional development placement programme for a cohort of deaf and disabled curators. They will bring new insights and ensure deaf and disabled people’s heritage is not overlooked by our Museums and Heritage institutions.
Sector leaders were also encouraged to make a pledge to commit to some of the other changes recommended in our Celebrations document. We hope that this significant support, demonstrated in the building at the heart of our Government, bodes well for the representation and employment of disabled people in culture in the future.