The history of UK’s first school for blind people
Personal stories and objects reveal the history of the UK’s first school for blind people, in a new exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.
Founded in 1791, Liverpool’s Royal School for the Blind, in particular its buildings and the everyday lives of students, is central to The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places.
The exhibition features unique objects from the Museum’s own collection alongside loans, personal stories and a film made in partnership with visually impaired and blind students from St Vincent’s School for Sensory Impairment.
The exhibition is curated in partnership with Accentuate’s History of Place project, which explores 800 years in the lives of deaf and disabled people, the exhibition highlights accessible interpretation including audio description, BSL and multisensory features.
It is estimated today that there are one billion disabled people in the world. Yet the history of deaf and disabled people continues to be overlooked, despite their stories being intrinsic to the environments we live in and around every day. The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places, explores what the architectural legacy of the School can reveal about the lives of those connected with it.
The Liverpool Blind School was founded by the blind abolitionist and human rights campaigner Edward Rushton, along with a number of his blind and sighted associates.
Rushton had first hand experience of slavery through working on slave ships. His compassion for, and proximity to enslaved people led him to contract a disease which cost him his sight. As a result of his experiences of blindness and poverty and realising the poor treatment and life chances of many less wealthy blind people, he founded the school to offer training and skills.
The exhibition gives us a moving insight into the daily lives of the pupils, the strict rules that they had to follow, how they crafted superb objects for sale and their leisure pursuits.
Central to the story are the three purpose-built buildings that housed the school during its history and how changing attitudes reflected the changing architecture to meet the needs of pupils.
The Blind School: Pioneering Places and People is part of History of Place, a national project run by Accentuate, to explore the deep connections between the histories of deaf and disabled people and the built environment.