This collection consists of archival materials compiled by National Museum of American History Curator Katherine Ott, on numerous subjects relating to disability and the rights of the disabled.
Scope and Contents:
The Disability Reference Collection represents a range of research materials acquired by curators Audrey Davis (1967-1996) and Katherine Ott (2002- ) and Janice Majewski (1978-2001), the first director of the Smithsonian's Accessibility Program in support of their collecting and exhibition work in the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History.
Material includes scholarly and popular articles, advertisements, product literature, clippings, schematics, photographs, audio, video, and ephemera. Some materials were sent to Davis and Ott by members of the general public who heard about their work; others were purchased by Ott at flea markets and on e-Bay.
Combined with associated Archives Center collections and objects housed in the curatorial divisions at NMAH, this collection constitutes one of the largest and most significant sources on American disability history. It is especially strong in accessibility policy documents from the early days of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its implementation, and product trade literature of the 1980s and 1990s. The collection also has a rich selection of newsletters and magazines published for various disability sectors, such as the Toomey J Gazette on polio and Mainstream.
Each series represents a subject or type of material. Researchers should look across all series when examining a topic or type of material. For example, trade literature items for the disabled person are found not only in the dedicated series, but also in series specific to a particular disability (i.e. Blindness: Aids and Appliances). Another example is material on polio. Researchers should look in the dedicated series, but also in Series 9: Edna Hindson's Scrapbooks and Series 8: Ron Mace.
The collection is arranged into seventeen series.
Series 1: Blindness, 1945-2001
Series 2: Hearing, 1855-2009
Series 3: Polio, 1925-2008
Series 4: Universal Design, 1962-2006
Series 5: Subject Files, 1863-2008
Series 6: Americans with Disabilities Act: 1968-2015, undated
Series 7: Brody, Lee/TTY, 1941-2001
Series 8: Mace, Ron, 1950-1990
Series 9: Hindson, Edna R., 1946-1954, 1991, 2003
Series 10: Lindahl, Lisa, 1988-2002, undated
Series 11: Wheelchairs, 1853-2007
Series 12: Arizonans for Safe and Equal Access to Transportation, 1987-1992
Series 13: Printed Material, 1959-2013
Series 14: Trade Literature, 1971-2013
Series 15: Newspaper Clippings, 1973-2000
Series 16: Ephemera, 1866-2011, undated
Series 17: Audio Visual Materials, 1979-2005
The Disability Reference Collection represents a range of research materials [primarily] acquired by curators Audrey Davis (1967-1996) and Katherine Ott (2002-) in support of their collecting and exhibition work in the Divison of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History (NMAH). The collection also contains material acquired by Janice Majewski (1978-2001), the first director of the Smithsonian's Accessibility Program. Additional materials have been added since the collection was transferred to the Archives Center.
Audrey Davis (1934-2006) was a NMAH curator from 1967 to 1996. Her interest and expertise in rehabilitation medicine, including prosthetics and orthotics, led to important three-dimensional collections in the Division of Medicine and Science. Davis did a series of showcases on such topics as hearing aids, artificial noses, and a large exhibition in 1973 entitled Triumph over Disability: the Development of Rehabilitation Medicine in the U.S.A., for the 50th anniversary of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. The exhibition was dedicated to Mary Elizabeth Switzer, an influential figure in the field. Katherine Ott joined the Division in 2001 as a permanent curator and broadened research to include pan-disability issues. Ott led exhibitions on the history of maxillofacial surgery (About Faces, 1998), The Disability Rights Movement (2000-2002), polio (Whatever Happened to Polio?, 2005-2006), HIV and Aids Thirty Years Ago (2011-2012); general disability history (EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America, 2013), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA25, 2015). Ott received a grant in 2000 from NMAH's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation to study the history of Universal Design; this included the collection of supporting materials.
Janice Majewski was the first director of the Smithsonian's Accessibility Program. Her tenure lasted from 1978 to 2001. She gathered background on museums and accessibility, followed current events, consulted on museum projects around the United States, and received a constant flow of product literature from vendors hoping for a Smithsonian contract. Most of the assistive technology brochures, policy papers, and gray literature on accessibility came from her office.
Materials in the Archives Center
Kevin M. Tuohy Papers (NMAH.AC.0317)
Milton S. Wirtz, D.D.S., Artificial Eye Collection (NMAH.AC.0501)
Van Phillips Video Oral History and Papers (NMAH.AC.0859)
Safko International, Inc. Records (NMAH.AC.0911)
Hariett Green Kopp Papers (NMAH.AC.1130)
Division of Science, Medicine and Society HIV/AIDS Reference Collection (NMAH.AC.1134)
Collection of TTY (text telephone) equipment, business records, posters, and awards relating to telecommunications pioneer Lee Brody. TTY phones allow the deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to use the telephone to communicate.
Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives
The Harry G. Lang Collection on Early TTY History, 1947-1999
Collection of correspondence, news clippings, technical data, and other materials documenting the invention and first 15 years of the phone teletypewriter for the deaf.
North Carolina State University Libraries
Ronald L. Mace Papers, 1974-1998
Collection of correspondence, project reports, architectural drawings, videos, and publications.
The core of the collection was assembled by curators Audrey Davis (1967-1996) and Katherine Ott (2002-) in support of their collecting and exhibition work in the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History. The collection also contains material acquired by Janice Majewski, the first director of the Smithsonian's Accessibility Program. Additional materials have been added since the collection was transferred to the Archives Center.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.