As an undergraduate at CCSU, I did a research paper for Dr. Prescott’s HIST 490: Disability History, and for this exhibit I plan to expand on my research from that paper and turn it into a worthy exhibit.
The paper was about the use of images of disability during the early 20th Century in regards to industrial safety. Management promoted safety in factories, but their motives usually went beyond purely humanitarian reasons. It’s true that accidents which resulted in the disability of workers were horrible and common, but for management it also meant lost time. As a result, management used images of disability in negative connotations in order to scare workers into being careful, so they won’t get hurt and won’t cause lost time. It was an effort to maximize production, but at the expense of those who actually were disabled.
For example, management told workers that if they became permanently physically disabled, they would become ugly, could not support their family, and would be miserable. Posters on walls and pictures printed in employee magazines were the most effective way to get this message across, and the images were often graphic and offensive.
These actions helped promote negative stereotypes of people with disabilities. Although I didn’t go this far in the paper, I’m sure that these ideas from the industrial safety movement gave the general populace a negative view of disabled persons, and likely pushed any movement towards equal rights back for decades.
For the paper I concentrated on local manufacturers in New Britain, Hartford, and Waterbury, and I plan to do the same for the exhibit. National Safety Council posters were also very helpful; and they were printed in the Council’s bulletin, which thankfully is in CCSU’s library. I’m planning on having local students be my major audience, although anyone with an interest in local factories or disability history would also certainly have an interest in it as well. It would be beneficial for students, though, because I will also be forced to provide context information on labor history in general, such as the importance of avoiding lost time during WWII.
The many copies of posters and other images will no doubt make up the bulk of the exhibit, and so the final product will be very visual in nature (something students will likely appreciate). A skill I would thus need to know is how to properly design the site so that the visuals don’t overpower the text.
I’ll have no problem completing the project on time, since thankfully I’ve kept all my research from the original paper. But I plan on going through some new archives to find more examples, and plan to contact and visit the Dodd Research Center, Hartford Public Library, and Bridgeport Public Library. I’ll probably also see if East Hartford has any copies of employee magazines from Pratt & Whitney, particularly during WWII. If I end up having too many sources and pictures, I’ll likely concentrate on the WWII era instead of the entire first half of the 20th Century.
I liked how the Martha Ballard diary exhibit was set up, with assorted media and links to see the primary sources. I’d like to try something along those lines, although I won’t likely have a video. Podcasting might be possible, though, and I definitely want something more interactive than just looking at the posters, such as a quiz for students.