Disability

The second collection of documents I curated this summer focus on the topic of disabilities in medical history. This is topic that is rich for exploration and requires careful contextualization. The words used to describe physical, mental, and emotional impairments have, over time, come to be used as degrading and dehumanizing terms, yet many such (including “cripple,” “feeble-minded,” “moron,” and the like) were commonly used in medical literature of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. My goal with these collections, therefore, was to provide ample specific context and to demonstrate how understandings of physical, mental, and developmental disabilities have changed over time.

两个collection areas are organized around what historians of disabilities have called the medical and social models of disability: the former sees conditions labeled as disabling as based in an abnormal process that must be corrected, while the latter considers disabilities to be the problem of the social or built environment (to cite a common example: using a wheelchair isn’t inherently a problem, until one encounters stairs). The sources contained in the medical model collections (which I termed interventions/care), were chosen because they each give a perspective on how the medical community at a specific point in time approached care for people with disabilities. This 1867 text,Infantile Paralysis and its Attendant Deformitiesby Charles F. Taylor, details not only the design of various apparatuses to treat children with lingering paralysis, but expounds on the author’s theory as to why the disease developed (nervously-exhausted parents were to blame!).

同样地,社会模式集合(政策/社会)突出了MHL集合中的项目,这些项目展示了残疾人如何应对他们一天的挑战,或者社会如何试图容纳残疾人。美国众议院劳工委员会(U.S.House of Represents Committee on Labor)提供了一组特别丰富的资料来源,该委员会于1944年着手调查残疾公民可获得援助的普遍程度和类型(很可能是为了列出二战归来的士兵可能期望得到的援助)。“残疾人艾滋病听证会”进行了八次会议,共产生了1138页证词,涉及向残疾人提供的服务(往往涉及无法提供的服务)。可以找到系列中的第一卷here.

Rather than organize around specific types of disability, I chose these classifications in order to highlight commonalities across those categories. However, I thought a sort of “case-study” approach would also be useful, as it could provide a through-line narrative. For this, I chose the topic of veterans with disabilities. This allowed me to take advantage of collections digitized by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Office of Medical History Collection. One common theme was that of rehabilitation, especially in the wake of World War I. This magazine,Carry On: A Magazine on the Reconstruction of Crippled Soldiers and Sailors,由美国红十字会制作,作为对残疾退伍军人感兴趣的个人和救济协会的资源。它经常重复的信息是“不是慈善,而是一个机会。”

Creating this collection necessarily turned up sources that may be unsettling or disturbing to some, and where necessary I have included notes to that effect. One tendency in historical medical literature that discusses patients with disabilities is the use of images of patients (clothed and unclothed, face obscured or not) to illustrate examples. While the case can be made that these have been valuable teaching tools for medical students in the past, the question of whether the patient consented to the use of their image is not always answered. Unfortunately, it’s often safe to say that consent was not considered in the era prior to the 1970s.

After engaging with the materials curated for this exhibit, viewers should be able to:

  1. Explain how the experience of disabilities has changed over time.
  2. Explain what sorts of conditions have been labeled as disabilities and why, given changing historical conditions.
  3. Describe how medical understandings of disability have changed over time, especially in light of new technologies or understandings of the body.
  4. Give examples of some of the assistive programs and technologies that have been established to help those with physical and mental impairments.
  5. Understand the legal and ethical issues that surround disability research and treatment.

Disability and…

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