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Collections3rd October 2022

Creating A Disability History Focus Group

Black and white pictures of the Chatham Chest at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Curating for Change Fellow, Suchitra Chatterjee, are looking for 10-12 people with lived experience of disability or neurodiversity to work with them on a #CuratingForChange project to investigate disability history within the Trust’s collections, and eventually share them with visitors to the museum and via digital channels.

The Curating for Change project

Curating for Change is a ground-breaking work placement programme for D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse curators in museums. They have 16 Trainees and Fellows based in 20 museums across England.

The agenda is to work towards making the change from within the museum sector itself.

Why Curating for Change?

When looking at the museum sector workforce, only 4% of staff define themselves as D/deaf or disabled, making disabled representation even less visible and hard to quantify.

We recognise that without this representation museum collections will never authentically explore the hidden history of people with disabilities through their objects.

So many people are missing from the pages of history books because of what was and is still seen as being “too different”.

Why do we need you?

As a group, we will research the stories of people who have often been misrepresented or forgotten altogether in the historical narrative of Chatham Dockyard.

Your role:

The group will meet for 6 sessions over a 6-month period.

How we will support you to participate:

We are aware that some people may still be shielding, so we are working towards most of the sessions being hybrid/online, depending on the individual needs of participants.

We aim to meet any access needs you might have; support workers/carers are very welcome to attend with you. Covering the expenses associated with your access requirement.

We have plenty of parking for vehicles outside the museum.

We will cover travel expenses up to £15 each session. Receipts for travel are required, ie bus, train, taxi etc.

Refreshments will be provided.

In return for your time, we will issue each of you a complimentary annual ticket to The Historic Dockyard Chatham for each participant and PA.

Our first meeting will be on Thursday 3rd November 2022 at The Historic Dockyard Chatham in the Namur room, next to our Mess Deck restaurant.

If you have an interest in this shared community project, please email by Friday 14th October 2022

Sample session outline

Chatham Chest 1588 -1803

An Introduction to the Disability Heritage Co-Production Group.

We will start with a visit to the Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 exhibition for a taste of what Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust offers in the way of exhibitions.

Introductions and group discussion in the Namur Room.

Session One – What was the Chatham Chest?

Black and white pictures of the Chatham Chest at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Image: Chatham Chest

Diversity and the Dockyard through time


Billy WATERS, crew on the HMS GANYMEDE

Image: Billy WATERS, crew on the HMS GANYMEDE


The dockyard has always had an international workforce from its inception both Naval and civilian. Billy Waters was born a slave in the USA. He was a sailor before he was severely injured in an accident aboard the HMS GANYMEDE. This resulted in him becoming and amputee. He became famous in his own right when he busked in London, but his naval career was forged in Chatham.  Billy is just one example of Chatham’s hidden stories that are waiting to be told.

Session Two – Digging for treasure – the hidden stories of the forgotten lives linked to Chatham, Kent



Suchi’s Curating for Change project is supported by:



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