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A ground-breaking work placement programme for D/deaf and disabled curators in museums

03 December 2021

Curating for Change, a ground-breaking work placement programme for D/deaf and disabled curators in museums, has launched thanks to an award of £950,900.00 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Screen South, through its pioneering Accentuate Programme, has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £950,900.00 for an England-wide heritage project that aims to be transformational for the museum sector. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, Curating for Change will provide a landmark Fellowship and Traineeship programme which includes fully funded paid work placements with mentoring and training opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people wanting to pursue a career within museums. Fellows and Trainees will be hosted by more than 20 partner museums from across England, including The Historic Dockyard Chatham, and each Fellow will have space to research and curate a range of new exhibitions and events for more than 240,000 visitors across 9 locations.  This is the first time that such a significant range and calibre of museums have come together to create a network of activities that will begin to tackle the under-representation of disabled people in our museums.

Currently there are 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK. 19% of working age adults are disabled (Family Resources Survey, 2018-19). Disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people (ONS Labour Force Survey, April to June 2020). The inequalities are further accentuated within the museum sector workforce, with only 4% defining as D/deaf or disabled. Curating for Change will start to address the significant gap in access and employment across the heritage sector which, to date, had been largely ignored.

The rich and diverse history of D/deaf and disabled people is rarely exhibited in museums, with few objects in collections reflecting the history of disabled people.  Without D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in curatorial roles, the challenges are significant in terms of telling authentic narratives that relate to disability history. In addition, there are barriers in the ways in which disabled people experience museums. Exhibitions and displays are predominantly designed for ‘normal’ bodies, with minimal consideration given to how D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people will navigate and/or experience them.

This vital funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable the Accentuate Programme to establish this new project, embedding change within host museums, that will in turn, generate learning and actions to be shared more widely across the sector. It will also provide a much-needed platform for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent curators to demonstrate their skills and unique insights, encouraging a new lens through which to consider heritage narratives and ways to engage audiences.

Based within the organisation Screen South, the Accentuate Programme creates landmark projects for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people across the cultural sector.

Esther Fox, Head of Accentuate, says “We are so excited that with thanks to National Lottery players’ support, we can at last tackle the huge problem of the under-representation of D/deaf and disabled people in our museums – both as staff, and in the collections and the stories that are told. We are privileged to be working with a whole range of wonderful museums to bring about this change. From small community museums such as Hastings Museum and Art Gallery to large Nationals including the Museum of Liverpool and the National Railway Museum York, part of the Science Museum group. There is a commitment from right across the sector to improve equity and representation and Curating for Change will deliver the activities that will make this change a reality.

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust is one of the organisations involved in this programme and will be hosting a Curatorial Fellow for 18-months in the Collections team at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

Find out more: https://screensouth.org/accentuate-curating-for-change/ 

 

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