Exploring the past, changing the present

Moving towards our exhibition at MShed, with help from various organisations in Bristol Grace discusses how an exploration of deaf and disabled lives in the past can positively affect the present.

image shows architectural plan for the top of a roof Credit - Thanks to Bristol Charities

In Bristol, AHOP is moving rapidly towards our exhibition opening. We are having an exciting time choosing what to put in, as well as secret exhibition designing with our curators. We are making decisions on how to present our research and tell the stories of The Guild in Bristol.

We’ve had two significant events as part of this process over the past few weeks. Very different, they are both steered by the desire to explore life in Bristol for disabled people and how organisations or charities have historically contributed.

How exploring the past galvanises action in the present

On Wednesday 14th of June, AHOP was joined by a group of highly experienced and knowledgeable representatives from the Bristol community at the Vassall Centre. We ran an advisory group meeting on the situation for disabled people Bristol, both in the recent past and current climate. We hoped to co-develop the research reflection space as part of the upcoming M Shed exhibition- and gathered this powerful group together to aid the process.

The discussions included the pertinent issues for disabled people today, Bristol’s accessibility, rights of disabled people and changing language/perceptions.

The discussions included the pertinent issues for disabled people today, Bristol’s accessibility, rights of disabled people and changing language/perceptions. We also pondered why exploring the past was important to galvanise action and what influences this in a positive way. We even questioned what questions we wanted to ask of our exhibition visitors. We were inspired and humbled by the conversations and provocations from the group. It highlighted that the exhibition is treading significant ground for representing important histories. We’d like to thank all members of the meeting and the Disability Equality Forum for their contribution.

Some discoveries in the offices of Bristol Charities

image shows two women sitting on the floor surrounded by files and paintings and looking in reference books

Volunteers hunting through the files in the offices of Bristol Charities

On a different pursuit, myself and two of the VRAG team, Laurine and Grace MT took a trip to the Bristol Charities offices and delved into their back room of books and references. We were looking for information that could tell us more about Bristol Charities in the 1890s and the context of the Guild’s growth as well as its demise in the 1970s-80s. We discovered the strength of Bristol’s almshouses, and were intrigued about how many organisations were run by single women. We discovered the building plans for the Orchard street offices also designed by Frank Wills and gazed on the portrait of Ada Vachell.

Some of the older material in the files of Bristol Charities

After being welcomed to borrow books to burrow further into, the Bristol Charities team answered our quizzing on the Guild fund and how they manage the trusts. We were informed that the Guild’s fund is still going in a way- it’s been merged and is now the relief in sickness and disability grant (see more here: http://www.bristolcharities.org.uk/grants). The Bristol charities are continuing the work of the Guild by supporting disabled people in Bristol.

As we move towards the exhibition we’re developing ideas for how to tell the important and difficult stories we are uncovering. The tireless work of our volunteers in integral to this, as are the organisations that are supporting us and guiding us in our explorations.

Image shows book of accounts with yellowing pages

Accounts of Bristol Charities in 1896 – 7





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