University of Leicester

Exceptional and Extraordinary
Four disabled artists have used the resources of eight of the UK’s most renowned medical museums to create artworks that aim to examine public attitudes towards difference.

The Exceptional and Extraordinary project, initiated and led by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the University of Leicester, comprises new commissions by Francesca Martinez, Julie McNamara, David Hevey and Deaf Men Dancing which feature comedy, dance, live performance, film and digital media.

“Our research shows that museums are trusted institutions that can host and, importantly, influence debates about these kinds of issues,” says Richard Sandell, professor of Museum Studies. “Collections and the stories that they hold can be especially powerful in engaging visitors to think – and to think differently – about difference.

“Museums aren’t to blame for negative attitudes – but there is a link between them and the way that disability is presented in the media and public realm. This means that museums have an opportunity to tell these stories responsibly and ethically.”

Sandell says that Museums Change Lives offers a compelling vision for the social role and value of museums and galleries in the twenty first century and is also an invaluable source of inspiration to enrich future practice. “At a time when a growing body of international research highlights the unique contributions that museums can make to a fairer, inclusive and cohesive society, Museums Change Lives helps to focus attention on our core priorities.”

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