Perri Meldon, Candidate for MA in History, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Seeking Additional Presenters
- Seeking Specific Expertise
- Seeking General Feedback and Interest
- Civic Engagement
I intend to understand how we interpret disability in the National Park Service (and possibly local institutions, as well). How do certain National Historic Sites and National Historic Landmarks, such as the John F. Kennedy Birthplace and Helen Keller’s Ivy Green, convey their disability histories to the public? These are complicated, nuanced narratives that require thoughtful examination. Additionally, how do we conceptualize “authorities” and “experts” when talking about disability in our National Parks? Do individuals with disabilities contribute to the shaping of these narratives? I aim to find answers to these questions over the course of this academic year and through research with the National Park Service and other related experts.
The challenge with discussing disability is how far-reaching the concept of “disability” truly is. I will select some working definitions of disability, with assistance from both individuals with disabilities and other experts in the field. This will help guide the discussion and understanding of how disability can be effectively examined in our National Parks, at the same time that we improve the participation of individuals with disabilities (keeping in mind the slogan, “Nothing about us without us”).
Once I have compiled a thorough examination of various National Historic Sites’ past and current approaches to disability history interpretation, I would like to explore ways that these sites can improve their communication and outreach. Ideally, the historic site and the local community could establish participatory approaches, brainstorming ways that the sites can become more inclusive in their historic interpretation. These models for interpretation, with special consideration of people with disabilities, could later be implemented at other national historic sites across the nation.
This will require visiting a number of historic sites and contacting resources that may assist in understanding interpretation of disability history. I am open to building new connections and examining specific sites in greater detail to serve as case studies.
I would also like to note that, though it is important to identify physical spaces within the historic sites where physically accessibility may be improved (such as doorways, uneven floor boards, narrow staircases, etc.), it is not the goal of my research to focus on that. There are specific organizations that handle such matters, and I would like to concentrate on the disability histories and their interpretation within the sites.
If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Perri Meldon, [email protected]
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