Suchitra Chatterjee joined our Collections team in April as our Curating for Change Fellow.
The Curating for Change project is led by Screen South and Accentuate and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project includes 20 host organisations across England and aims to develop opportunities within the museum sector for those who are D/deaf, neurodivergent or disabled.
It is a really exciting opportunity for the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust; Suchi’s placement has already opened our eyes to ways we can change and grow and we are delighted to welcome her to the team. During her fellowship Suchi will be working with the collections to delve deeper into the stories our objects can tell.
Here is Suchi’s story over her first 6 months at the Dockyard…
What has it been like integrating into the Dockyard?
“In all the time I have worked as a person with a disability, when I go into a job it’s never been easy because I am in a wheelchair. Most of these places, through no fault of their own, are not adapted and have to be adapted whilst you are there.
I was very fortunate that with the Dockyard I visited before I officially started and most of the adaptations were already in place when I started work. Simple things like being able to tap the door and the door opens. The fact there are accessible bathrooms and the changing places facility is just amazing. It’s wonderful to not have to worry about stuff like that. The Dockyard is old so it has cobblestones and tram lines so, yes you have to be careful but you can still get around, there are also flat ramps which help.
The Collections team are fantastic, really friendly. I always worry if I’m going to fit in because of being in a wheelchair, like it or not, you have a life long difference. But I have felt a great connection to the team. It’s a lot of work but we all have fun doing it. I’ve loved every minute of it so far.”
What have you learned from uncovering the story of the Dockyard?
“It’s so interesting, learning about the Dockyard workers, amazing ships and the stories of the people. Finding out there is a residential community which I was not aware of. I have met so many amazing people and lots of dogs too! It has just been fantastic.”
What are your objectives over the next year?
“To put on an exhibition about the history of disability in the Dockyard. We’ve already uncovered some fascinating stories such as that of Billy Walter’s who worked in the British Navy and had a peg leg. We have a volunteer who lost part of his arm. We need to talk about their history and give them their trail through Chatham. We will use the help of colleagues and local people to do this. This shows disabled people have always had their place in history since the beginning of the Dockyard.”
You can hear the full story of Billy Walter’s in the August Edition of our Podcast “Dock Pod”. Find us on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/63YXT9izYfC33LBXSRFLoG