Launch of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA)

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The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA), a £1-million digital archive chronicling the history of disability arts in the UK, has launched to the public.

NDACA is the first archive in the world to offer a major retrospective of disabled people’s art and activism. The Disability Arts Movement – a fascinating story of disabled people forming an exciting disability culture – can now take its place within the diverse landscape of UK cultural heritage.

Black and white photo of 5 actors rehearsing a musical number

Graeae rehearsal photo from the 1980s

The Archive and Collection preserves the legacy of disability arts, allowing future generations of disabled people to celebrate the creative and political artefacts of disability. Researchers, heritage professionals and those interested in the UK’s cultural identity will be able to share and study ephemera about disability arts and analyse how the Disability Arts Movement impacted the campaign for disabled people’s civil rights.

Pastel image of a figure in a wheelchair

Self Portrait by Nancy Willis (1983), pastel on ingres paper. NDACA.

Delivered by Shape Arts and built with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as Arts Council England and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, www.the-ndaca.org is the home of a digital catalogue of 3,500 images, oral history film interviews, educational resources and animations, articles and much more.

As an open, free-to-use archive, www.the-ndaca.org is the central location to discover disability arts history. NDACA has digitised over 3,000 deposits to tell the heritage story of disability arts; this massive collection of disabled artists’ work from 1968 to the present day covers every aspect of their creative and political journeys: extensive photographs, ephemera, theatre stills and t-shirt collections relating to the seminal moments in the struggle for disabled people’s rights.

Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, comments:

“I am delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we’re supporting the first ever cultural archive of disability arts history. NDACA is a major milestone for disability heritage; stories of ordinary people who led extraordinary lives. Challenging and triumphant, we can now all learn about the contribution of the disabled community to the UK’s arts and political landscape.”

The digitisation of thousands of unique deposits will allow new audiences to comment on disability arts heritage. David Hevey, Shape Arts CEO and Project Director of NDACA, explained:

“This Archive tells a powerful heritage story about the Disability Arts Movement. I am proud to have led on a project that has reinterpreted the great art, culture and story of struggle produced by disabled people and their allies for so many decades.”

Jocelyn Dodd, Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, says:

“RCMG are delighted that the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive is now publicly available. This vital resource offers opportunities to tackle negative attitudes to ‘difference’, a goal that lies at the heart of our research at RCMG. This resource will enable museums, galleries and researchers to access untold stories about disabled people’s creativity and the oppression they battled against, and will also empower new audiences to discover the ideas and themes of forty years of disability arts history.”

As well as the collection itself, The NDACA website introduces the artists and activists through a collection of films telling their life stories. In the resources section you can enjoy an overview of some of the central themes of the Disability Arts Movement by viewing short animations made with Disability History Month.

In a series of 15 Audio Described Essays: Pictures Painted in a Thousand Words: the team at Disability Arts Online have given in-depth written and recorded context to a selection of key objects within the collection and archive.