Perri Meldon, Candidate for MA in History, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Proposal Type


  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking Specific Expertise
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest
Related Topics
  • Civic Engagement
  • Inclusion
  • Museums/Exhibits

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]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


  1. Benjamin Filene says:

    This sounds like a big project (and an interesting one!). I wonder if for the NCPH conference you could pick just one site to showcase & analyze and then perhaps join forces with the roundtable being put together by Beth Robertson (see elsewhere in this Proposals list). Or if that doesn’t seem like a good match, perhaps pick a few other practitioners to join you with case studies.

    1. Perri Meldon says:

      Thank you, Dr. Filene. I agree that this is a large topic. I currently work as the NCPE intern for the National Park Service Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education in DC, and I am composing a series of websites for the NPS about disability history, as depicted by National Historic Sites and NHLs (will hopefully launch by fall 2017). As I hone my formal proposal, I plan to select a couple of sites to focus on, most likely in the Northeast region. I plan on contacting Beth Robertson. I appreciate your advice!

  2. Melissa Barthelemy says:

    I had also made this comment on the early topic proposal that Beth Robertson submitted, but I also thought I would mention this here:

    This might not be at all helpful to you, and I am not that familiar with this area, but I know that Katherine Ott, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, has curated exhibitions on Disability and done a lot of work in this area. I don’t know her personally but I have noticed that she is active on this topic both within the Society of American Archivists and the Organization of American Historians organizations, and seems to go to a lot of conferences. She might be someone well worth reaching out to. Here is her staff profile

    Also, I want to second what was mentioned previously on the thread regarding the early topic proposal Beth Robertson submitted — about how great Prof. Kudlick would be for you to reach out to. Hopefully you have been able to connect up.

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