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Re-framing disability: portraits from the Royal College of Physicians

Our award winning touring exhibition Reframing disability explores a group of rare portraits from the 17th to the 19th centuries, held by the Royal College of Physicians. The portraits depict disabled men and women of all ages and walks of life, many of whom earned a living exhibiting themselves to the public.

Some individuals, such as conjoined ‘Siamese’ twins Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–74), are still famous today. Others, including professional artist Thomas Inglefield (b1769), born without legs or hands, are now forgotten.

The critically acclaimed exhibition uncovers the extraordinary hidden histories behind the portraits and looks at their impact today through contemporary responses. 27 disabled participants from across the UK were invited to have their photographic portraits taken and to be filmed.

The exhibition catalogue is available from the RCP shop. It reveals the stories behind the creation of the Re-framing disability project, the research exploring the historical portraits, and the autobiographical text of the disabled participants.


If you are interested in hosting Reframing disability at your venue, please contact us on +44 (0)20 3075 1543 or email history@rcplondon.ac.uk

The exhibition has successfully toured since 2012 to venues including Shape Arts, London, the University of Leicester, St Pancras Hospital, the Thackray Museum, Leeds, and the Houses of Parliament, London.

This project has been supported by Shape and the Wellcome Trust.