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Smithsonian focuses on disability history in new online exhibit

Disabled people make up a large percentage of our population, but for many decades they have not been fairly represented in history and society. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. In an example of this, the National Museum of American History recently unveiled a new exhibition that focuses on the many issues that affect the disabled community, including laws, movements, stereotypes and technology.

The exhibit, which was curated by the Smithsonian Institution, includes stories, memorabilia and documents that span more than 50 years in American history. In addition to being the first time disability history has been the focus of a major Smithsonian exhibit, it is also the Smithsonian's first exclusively online exhibit. Officials with the Smithsonian say the permanent online exhibit, “EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America,” will continue to be added to and updated.

Some of the items featured in the exhibit include prosthetics, political memorabilia, wheelchairs, medical devices and special telephones used by the deaf and Braille writers. Many stories and events involving people with disabilities will also be highlighted by the exhibit.

The curator of medical science at the National Museum of American History said the goal of the exhibit is to spotlight the experiences, stories and events involving people with disabilities that have not yet made it into "the history books or shared public memories." She said doing so "deepens the understanding of the American experience and reveals how complicated history is.”

The last time the National Museum of American History highlighted the disabled population with a physical exhibition at the Washington, D.C. museum called “Disability Rights Movement.” That was on display in 2000 and 2001. It is hoped that the exhibit gives both Americans with and without disabilities a better understanding of this important part of our history.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Smithsonian Spotlights Disability History," Michelle Diament, June 27, 2013

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