Division, Unity, Hardship, and Progress:
A Disability History of the United States
The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation is proud to be hosting an exhibit about the history of disability in the United States. This long-overdue, previously untold story takes an unblinking look at many chapters in our nation's ongoing coming-to-grips with the human rights imperatives created by unequal and oftentimes inhumane treatment through time of fellow humans—this time humans who may have some physical, cognitive, or emotional impairment/s—that are a part of our complex legacy.
This exhibit is eye-opening and deeply moving and so well-researched and presented that you will leave realizing that eleventh-graders are capable of great things!
This exhibit is curated by the students of Gann Academy and made possible with the generous support of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
From the Gann Academy students who created this exhibit:
The purpose of this exhibit is to tell an often-overlooked story, the story of people with disabilities in America. It is a story of struggles and triumphs, of insensitivity and learning... a story of scientific innovation, and the hubris that comes with newfound knowledge. Our exhibit is far from the whole story, and only one story of many, but it is enough to launch thoughtful discourse aimed at improving our communities.
Mission statement of Division, Unity, Hardship, and Progress: A Disability History of the United States:
As students of the 11th grade American History classes at Gann Academy, we have spent the majority of our school year creating this museum exhibit. There is no permanent museum of disability in the United States, yet even just here in the Boston area, there is so much history about this subject that should be told and needs a home.
Our own work has been fueled by one such story, the untold tale of the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center, which is located here in Waltham. Now closed, the center’s history holds a mixture of positive and negative events in the history of people with disabilities in America. The fact that this history is largely unknown is but one example of how we are, as a society, uninformed about the history of people with disabilities in America.
Our classes feel that it is not only important to educate people about the history of people with disabilities in America, but also how perspectives on disability have changed overtime. In fact, we as students represent those changing perspectives. Everyone is different in some way. In our classes, many of us have differences which make us unique, and many students in our team have formally diagnosed disabilities. It was especially meaningful to us to research the history you see here in comparison to our lives today.
- From the opening panel of “Division, Unity, Hardship, and Progress: A Disability History of the United States”