With a new exhibit focusing on disability history, the Smithsonian
Institution is ushering in a first for the venerable network of museums.
The exhibition from the National Museum of American History, which was
unveiled this week, explores everything from stereotypes to laws, technology and
issues in everyday home life for people with disabilities.
Featuring images documenting more than 50-years worth of objects and stories
collected by the Smithsonian, the exhibit is the museum’s first to be presented
“Many stories and events related to people with disabilities never make it
into the history books or shared public memories,” said Katherine Ott, curator
of medical science at the National Museum of American History. “Knowing this
history deepens the understanding of the American experience and reveals how
complicated history is.”
Among the objects featured in the exhibition titled “EveryBody: An Artifact History of
Disability in America” are prosthetics, items from protests, buttons and
t-shirts used by disability activists, wheelchairs, medical devices, text
telephones for the deaf and Braille writers.
Officials at the Smithsonian say they plan to build upon the permanent online
exhibit, with additions and frequent updates as well as a vibrant social media
The National Museum of American History previously highlighted people with
disabilities with a physical exhibition at the Washington, D.C. museum titled
“Disability Rights Movement” which was on display in 2000 and 2001.