Museum of Liverpool
The exhibition also highlighted the lives of people who were segregated from society, using information found in historic public records. It featured personal stories from participants, oral history interviews, photographs and specially-commissioned artwork.
Funded by National Museums Liverpool (NML), the exhibition was developed in partnership between Wicked Fish, a performing and creative arts company based in Liverpool, and the Museum of Liverpool. Wicked Fish is run by five disabled people, three of whom are performers who have learning difficulties.
The public programme consisted of performances by actors from Wicked Fish inspired by the diverse stories of people with learning difficulties, tours of the exhibition led by the Wicked Fish team, and talks about the hidden histories of people with learning difficulties.
The exhibition aimed to place the hidden histories of people with learning difficulties at the heart of the city’s story, to explore and celebrate the histories and culture of people with learning difficulties from their perspective, and help to document their lives and experiences, in their own words, for the future.
Visitors to the exhibition would come away with a greater understanding of the history and care of people with learning difficulties, exploring if and how this has changed over time. And it was an opportunity for people with learning difficulties to understand more about their own histories and culture and to feel empowered.
The exhibition came about after Wicked Fish approached NML to develop it. The Museum of Liverpool was keen to work in collaboration to explore this hidden history and to increase the representation of local disabled communities in our displays and collections.
The museum had regular project team meetings with Wicked Fish and received feedback and content (eg opinions, decisions and quotes) directly from them. Wicked Fish was heavily involved in the decision making process, from the lead image to case layouts.
To promote the project, a press release was sent to a range of general and targeted media outlets.
The exhibition was featured in a range of publications and NML’s exhibitions and events guide. A promotional leaflet and poster was produced by NML and distributed to outlets across the region. The exhibition was also heavily promoted via social media.
The programmed events were well attended and there were a large number of positive visitor comments which expressed how important the representation of people with learning difficulties is.
One visitor said: “Thanks for the Wicked Fish exhibit. I have a son with learning difficulties and it was inspirational! I have an extra spring in my step (as does my son) for seeing it!”
Another commented: “Having a child with additional needs I find this exhibition harrowing and uplifting.”
The exhibition reviews were mostly very positive, but with some criticism (e.g too much text). Those working on the exhibition did try and make it as accessible as possible – the interactive performances and tours by the group especially offered information in different formats and at different levels for different visitor needs.
However, lack of resources, space and time did unfortunately reduce the potential for the inclusion of sensory, tactile and new innovative methods of interpretation.