Curating for Change


Today, there are 10.4 million people in England and Wales who identify as disabled. One in four households include at least one disabled member and one in five people will probably be affected by disability during their lifetime. These conditions have been experienced by people across history, but how do we find them and tell their stories? How can we bring more perspectives from disabled people into museum spaces? 

Curating for Change, an initiative delivered in partnership with Accentuate and Screen South, exists to create strong career pathways for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse curators, currently seriously under-represented in museums. Trainees and Fellows across the country are producing exhibitions, events and blogs, exploring disabled people’s histories – while gaining skills for careers in the sector.


A person in a wheelchair gestures with their hand while talking in front of an Ancient Egypt museum display.

Kyle, a disabled Egyptologist who studies disability in antiquity, photographed while talking about the Ancient Egyptian displays in the Pitt Rivers Museum


Kyle Lewis Jordan, Curating for Change Fellow at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean Museum, is working to re-examine and explore the museums' collections through a new lens, digging out the stories of disabled people across time, through objects in the collections that have perhaps lain hidden or been overlooked due to lack of information. At the Pitt Rivers Museum, this has involved a series of workshops inviting local disabled people to respond to the museum and its collections by bringing their own lived experiences to these encounters with museum objects. Participants in these sessions have become co-producers of a new set of stories and responses to the objects on display, which has been developed into a new trail across the three floors of the museum.  


Nothing Without Us: Experiences of Disability, launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 16 November 2023. 



Download the A5 Nothing Without Us trail booklet (pdf) or pick up a printed copy at the museum during your visit. 

Download the A4 larger print version (44 page pdf) that includes all the text on display alongside pictures of the exhibits.

Download the A4 word document containing text for the project page and the A4 word document containing text for the all trail stop displays

All the content on the trail webpages below are also available to view on NaviLens app and NaviLens go app. Navilens codes are available each trail stop, including the introduction panels found on each floor. Scan these codes through the NaviLens apps to access the display information via this platform. 


Drawers in the displays at the Pitt Rivers Museum with the Curating for Change logo superimposed

Nothing Without Us: Experiences of Disability

Nothing Without Us is a co-produced gallery trail that shares the lived experiences of disabled people, their stories revealed by objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum.  

In the summer of 2023, the Museum’s Curating for Change Fellow led a group of co-producers in researching disability across multiple times and spaces. Their questions grew from asking how disabled people lived throughout time, to interrogating how the objects capture the experience of disability itself. Their ideas covered themes of Form and Function, Precarity and Violence, and Care.  

We invite you to reflect on how such experiences have not only shaped their lives, but have a deeper connection and meaning that matters for all of us. 


Visit each of the six stops on this trail at the Pitt Rivers Museum - in the museum and through the accompanying webpages - to discover stories about the lived experience of disabled people, inspired by the objects in the museum's collection, and consider what it means for all of us. Some stops include more than one display case - look out for the bright pink and teal graphics among the displays to find all the stories. In addition to text-based narratives, some co-producers have also created and loaned artworks to feature as part of the trail displays in conversation with the museum objects.

More digital interpretation will be added to the trail webpages as work continues on this project over the next few months.

Four of the six stops are on the ground floor, with one on the first floor, and another on the second floor. 


Ground Floor (also sometimes called the Court)

On this floor, you will find stories sharing experiences of the body and the mind; how different forms are depicted, and functions or behaviours are understood.

Floor plan of ground floor of museum showing case location and trail stops highlighted with pink spots


1. & 1a. Shaping the Body and the Mind 
Discover three stories by Hannah, Sarah and Lucy.

Find these in Cases 147, 148A, and 149 titled “Human Form in Art”. This stop explores the experience of “masking” and learning social cues, playfulness as a form of expression and learning, and the value of hugs. 


2. Communication and Expression 
Find two stories by Christopher and Hannah, as well as embroidery artworks by Hannah.

Find these in Case 107A titled “Writing and Communication”. This stop expresses the value of being able to communicate one’s own experiences through a variety of mediums such as artwork, accessible formats like Braille, and more abstract ideas such as the ancient Egyptian “weighing of the heart”.  


3. A Prayer for Help 
A story by Brenda.

Find these in Case 32A titled “Votives”. This stop investigates how votives give us an insight into past people’s experiences of pain and suffering, and how conditions we might not call disabilities can still have disabling effects.  


4. Life, Death, (After) Life 
Read stories by Rachel and Kyle, as well as a translated Ancient Egyptian story printed on onion paper produced by Juliet.

Find these in Case 7A titled “Treatment of the Dead”. This stop illuminates how reframing our approach towards human remains – in this case, Egyptian mummified remains – and their burial provides new ways of understanding ancient ideas of the body.  


First Floor (also sometimes called the Lower Gallery) 

On this floor, you will find stories which explore disabled people’s complex relationship with medical intervention and innovation and how seeking care can at times lead to feelings of precarity.  

You’ll also find a Feedback Station, where we would be excited to receive your thoughts on the stories you’ve heard and hear your own stories. 

Plan of first floor of museum showing case locations and trail stop highlighted with pink spots

5. Surgical Interventions
Discover stories by Laurie and Brenda.

The stories in Case L87A titled “Surgical and Medical Implements” interrogate the historical practice of trepanning, modern innovations in the treatment of neurological conditions, and asks an open question on how do we begin to quantify those disabilities we sometimes label as “invisible”.


Second Floor (also sometimes called the Upper Gallery)

On this floor, we’ve given space to highlighting disabled people’s experiences of trauma and violence. The overhanging ceremonial clubs and maces serves as a reminder of how these symbols of power are also a very visible reminder of the act of maiming, and so we ask visitors: Why do we Maim?

The stories in Case U30 to 31A titled “Clubs” uncover the historical significance of depictions of maiming, and shares the personal stories of a family whose member’s each individually have faced decisions that caused them harm. The case also holds space for reflections on recovery and safety, with a patchwork piece depicting a personal journey of recovery from trauma and a reflective piece on the effect of rules, which we've featured below.

Gallery plan of second floor of museum showing case locations and trail stop highlighted with pink spots

Why do we maim?
Find stories by Kyle, Juliet, and Ryan, as well as blackwork embroidery by Ryan and textile artworks by Juliet in the display of clubs, in the tall display case on the right wall as you enter through the door.



Lucy's Rules and Markers

Old Rule, New Rules

Rules can be helpful. They can give us guidance, help us feel safe, remind us to look after one another. Sometimes, however, they can also be unhelpful: if they’re difficult to understand, use threatening language, or don’t accommodate people who may need to do things differently.

Co-producer Lucy made multiple visits to the Pitt Rivers Museum and came up with some rules to help her get the most out of her visits. She shares them with us here in the hope that they can help others find the same excitement and joy.


Here are some rules Lucy uses to make her visit more enjoyable - you may want to try them yourself:

1. Take breaks and relax. Find quiet, comfortable places that you can think in. 

2. Find objects that give you joy.

3. Surprise yourself. Look for familiar objects and find something new next to them.

4. Take time to be creative. Make drawings.

5. Write out the labels. Copy the labels and share them with friends and family. Ask questions.

6. Open the drawers. Pick beautiful objects to look at. Use a torch on a phone to see in the drawers.

7. Share your stories in the museum. Find objects that help to explain your life to people.


Download Lucy's Rules in Easy Read format (pdf file).


During the co-production sessions in the summer of 2023, Lucy and her mother Sarah spent some time exploring the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum and, along with contributing stories to our main displays, got really excited when finding other objects which they felt a connection with through their own lived experience and interests.


Two white line drawing illustrations of a person, each in a pink circle - one has the name Lucy written on her torso, while the other has a balloon which has the name Sarah written on it.


Embracing this spirit of joyful self-discovery, both Lucy and Sarah have left their own markers with some of the following objects.

  1. 1995.21.14: “Snake Figure” – “I like small creatures. This snake is small and has a little smile.”
  2. 2002.105.1: “Roman Oil Lamp” – “Reminds me of my night light; you need to be able to see where your bed is when it gets dark.”
  3. 1924.6.36: “Medicine Box” – “You need to keep your medicines safe. This little box helps you do that.”
  4. 1993.31.1: “Plastic Cane Ball” – “Reminds me of playing, throwing and catching with my family.”

See if you can find them on a visit to the museum galleries, and while doing so, you might also find something that you feel represents you!

Both Lucy's Rules and these markers are examples of how co-producers have re-interpreted the museum as part of this project. 

About Curating for Change and Disability History Month


This co-produced trail is part of Curating for Change, an initiative delivered in partnership with Accentuate and Screen South, providing opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people, to purse a curatorial career in Museums. The project is led by Accentuate, a specialist programme within the organisation Screen South. Curating for Change is working with Fellow and Trainees at over 20 museums across England.

Find out more about Curating for Change


Curating for Change Logo













Accentuate logo in pink


Screen South Logo


National Lottery Heritage Fund Logo


art fund logo



Arts Council England Logo






This trail launch and accompanying programme of work has been prepared to coincide 2023's Disability History Month 16 November – 16 December, which focuses on the Experience of Disablement amongst children and young people in the past, now and what is needed for the future. 

Find out about Disability History Month 




Credits and Acknowledgements

This trail was made possible thanks to the Curating for Change project, run by Accentuate and Screen South, and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, and Arts Fund.


Curator: Kyle Lewis Jordan

Co-Producers: Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, Christopher Harris, Hannah Holden, Juliet Eccles, Laurie Pycroft, Lucy Shaw, M Garrido Davies, Rachel Cotton, Ryan Brown, Sarah Shaw

Project Managers: Beth McDougall, Zena McGreevy

Exhibition Design and Installation: Alan Cooke, Josh Rose

Photography: Henrietta Clare

Digital Support: Katherine Clough

Print Design: James Horrocks, Creative Jay Design

Special Thanks to… Hayleigh Jutson, Marina De Alarcon, Natasha Podro, Pitt Rivers Museum colleagues in Collections and Conservation departments, and Esther Fox, Emily Goff, and Ruth Garde at Curating for Change.