Category Archives: Collection highlights

Disability: a taboo area of Britain’s past

Blog post by Joe Woodhouse-Page, student volunteer, for UK Disability History Month. This is an annual event which runs from 22 November to 22 December, covering HIV/AIDS day (1 Dec), International Day of People with Disabilities (3 Dec) and International Human Rights Day (10 Dec). Its aim is to raise awareness of the fight for equality that has been taken up throughout history by and for those whose lives are affected by disabilities

Whilst skimming through many archives you’ll find little reference to Britain’s disabled population, however, delve deeper into Brunel Library’s Special Collections and you’ll find stories of those people, stories that should not go untold.

Only in recent times have we, as a society, stopped treating disability as a taboo, when it is told in historical accounts it is often limited, masked and ultimately brushed over. Although, in Special Collections you’ll discover texts both detailing the experience of having a disability in the past and the impact that disabled people had on those around them and society.

One such text is the autobiography of Charles William Esam-Carter recounting the period of 1899-1903. Carter recounts his early childhood, when his severely disabled sister was born he was 4 years old. With a disabled sister and parents in dispute Carter felt like an outcast, displaying that the disabled were not treated as members of normalised society. Carter recounts the most upsetting aspect of the treatment of his sister; “She was dependent on us and we rejected her.” Perhaps selfishly, Carter even suggests that his childhood was ruined by the birth of his sister. The account provides evidence of the rejection of the disabled in past society and is well worth a read.

The account entitled ‘My life’ by Annie Lord also provides some worthwhile insights, dated in 1943; Lord propagates like Carter the rejection of disabled people in society. Annie Lord was deaf in one ear, although she did not discover this until she was 16, narrating; “Age of 16 years old I was taken for a different and ferocious weirdo… but they found out it was deaf,” it’s clear that Lord did feel like an outcast in society, portraying that she just had to “Carry on the best she could.” Although it has been said to be poorly written, Lord’s account gives us a rare first-hand account of what being disabled was like in 20th century society, certainly deserving of further exploration.

In Brunel’s Special Collections you’ll find details of disabled people in the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, seeing how far we have come as a society in terms of treatment of disabled people over the last century is fascinating, and a great way to spend an afternoon. In addition to this archive, we also have a modern collection of transcription poems, Neglected Voices, written by a former poet-in-residence at Brunel University, Allan Sutherland. These poems were created from life-interviews which Sutherland carried out among six individuals with different disabilities. The audio recordings and the full transcriptions of these interviews are held in Special Collections alongside the poetry collections themselves. ‘Proud’ is a poetry collection based on the words of Jennifer Taylor, who has a learning disability. ‘In Memory’ is formed from an interview with Catriona Grant, whose life was affected by a stroke at a young age. The collection, ‘This Hearing Thing,’ is based on the words of Wendy Bryant who gives an account of living with a hearing impairment, and lastly ‘Dan Dare Braces’ is a collection of poems on the life of Peter Moore, a survivor of abuse.

References:

Annie Lord, My Life (1943). Burnett Archive, 2:486.

Autobiography of Charles William Esam-Carter (1946). Burnett Archive, 4.

 

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Round up: #ExploreArchives Week 2017

We hope you’ve enjoyed sharing #ExploreArchives week with us this year. We’ve had lots of fun finding images of our collections to share. Do follow us on Twitter and Instagram as well as this blog to see more of our collections.

Train tickets

We hope you’ve had a good week with #explorearchives. Don’t stop exploring! Archives are tickets to the unknown.

Bendy and engine driver book

Bendy Brunel’s childhood reading from our Transport History Collection

Hand drawn map

An amazing hand drawn route map of a railway line complete with points & signals that we’ve found exploring the collection

Brunel and duck shelving

And so to bed. Tuckered out after a week of discovering Brunel Special Collections

#LoveArchives

Friday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #LoveArchives

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day from Ladies Home Journal

Love on the underground

Love on the underground, from our Channel Tunnel collection

Cox 1-194 courtship

Ruth Cox was 19 in 1909 and courted a friend of her brother’s with her father’s consent (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies 1:184)

 

Frisby 1-25- Valentine's day

Minnie Frisby describes Valentine’s Day in 1943 (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies 1:250)

 

Gold 2-321 courtship

Olive Gold describes being courted by a Canadian Mormon, Billie, despite being a Methodist (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography 2:321)

 

Seymour 1-616 courtship

Arthur Seymour met his girlfriend, Ada, when he worked in a shop. She was only allowed to see him between 8 and 10pm.

#ArchiveScience

Thursday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #Archive Science

There are scientific reports and studies in our Channel Tunnel Association Archive, concerning the research that went on to make sure that building the tunnel was feasible.

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#HairyArchives

Wednesday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #HairyArchives!

 

Shampoo duck

Archives Duck wonders which of the 3 Breck shampoos from the Ladies’ Home Journal would best suit his new beard.

 

King Lear beard

Bendy Brunel comparing beards with King Lear. Happens everyday in the archives.

 

Tegetoff

Portrait from Illustrated London News from Sept 1866, of Vice-Admiral Tegetoff, commander of Austrian fleet.

#EdibleArchives

Tuesday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #EdibleArchives

This book is a register kept as part of the standard records at Padstow station in Cornwall, from 1921 to 1952. As the port at Padstow sent out a great deal of fish, the station had a separate fish loading platform. This was closed in 1950s as the trade in fish declined. This website gives more details on the freight trains, including the dedicated fish service running to Nine Elms. Many of the entries are for fish or other foodstuffs, but there is also an entry for a corpse, sent in December 1940 to Stepps in North Lanarkshire: perhaps a fallen soldier? Kept in the pages for 1940 is a loose memo, written in pencil and dated 20th September 1940, concerning a delayed delivery and noting that “during the current emergency” (that is, during World War Two, owing to the disruption to rail services) the special charges for fish sent to London Waterloo would also apply to fish sent to Paddington.

 

Peas LHJ

Peas, egg and ham salad from Ladies Home Journal 1953

Stuffed meat LHJ

Ration-stretching stuffed meats from Ladies Home Journal 1943

Festive recipes

Started Christmas baking yet? Here’s the header for some festive recipes, from the Dec 1942 Ladies’ Home Journal

#ArchiveCatwalk

Monday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #ArchiveCatwalk

Matching PJs LHJ

Matching shirts ad from Ladies Home Journal

Downer 1-211 dressmaker

Mrs R Downer relates how she was a dressmaker to a famous, but unnamed, employer (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies 1:211)

 

Gold 2-321 Apprentice dressmaker

Olive Gold went to work as an apprentice dressmaker in 1910, aged 13, with no wage for the first year (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies 2:321)

 

Jordan 3-101 tailoress

Charlotte Jordan also worked as an apprentice tailoress, with no pay for the first six months (Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies 3:101