Bodies of Difference: Disability, Art History, and the Museum (Field Trip to London)

Dr. Jess Bailey, Virginia Marano, M.A., Dr. Charlotte Matter, Laura Valterio, M.A. Tutor: Elena Bally, B.A.


Lower limb prostheses, Roehampton, England, 1966, Science Museum, London.




This field trip to London considered understudied visual and material histories of disability, chronic illness, disabled artists, and representations of the human body in order to challenge the way we write art history. Art history has traditionally been committed to looking at a very narrow definition of the body, and yet the way we live in our bodies is very diverse. Disability studies asks us to radically expand the scope of our field and consider the relationship between art and the body anew. We visited museum collections across London including a behind the scenes special collections visit at Wellcome Collection to view art and archival materials first hand with experts. We asked questions about who and what art history has excluded from its line of sight and consider how disability studies provokes us to describe figuration and artistic expression more inclusively. We tackled big topics like ableism, beauty, the history of medicine, affect, illness, protest and social justice.