Skip to main content

Disability project

Speakers for three different online talks that took place in November 2022, as part of the Disability: Past and Present Project.

Disability History Month events

By Disability project

It’s almost November, and in celebration of UK Disability History Month we’ve put together a series of free online talks.

This November, we’re partnering with disability advocates and historians to share the stories and experiences of disabled and chronically ill people across time. Across the month we’ll be hosting online talks with Dr Emily Bartlett (University of Kent) and Dr Ellen Adams (Kings College, London), as well as a Q&A with Paralympian Sophie Christiansen CBE.

To find out more and register for free online, click the link below >

Disability events Archives – The Devil’s Porridge Museum (

Someone drawing a panoramic landscape illustration, which is attached to a wall.

FilmAble Cartoon: First Look at The Three Bairns

By Disability project

We were so excited to receive these exclusive first looks at the short cartoon created for our upcoming exhibition. The exhibition, which will begin at the start of November, is the product of our yearlong disability history project. An important element in this project is a short cartoon inspired by the disabled workers of HM Factory Gretna in World War One. This cartoon will be created, written and animated by the talented folk at FilmAble, a film company staffed entirely by disabled people. It was our pleasure to host FilmAble at the museum a few weeks ago, and now they’ve sent us some exclusive sneak peeks of their production!

They’ve also told us that the title of the cartoon is The Three Bairns.

We cannot wait to see the finished film in November!



FilmABLE in The Devil's Porridge Museum's education room.

Visit from FilmABLE

By Disability project

Recently we received a visit from FilmABLE. 

FilmABLE is a film production company set up by Haltwhistle Films that is ran and operated by people with learning disabilities. 

We’ve worked with FilmABLE in the past on multiple projects and are happy to have them back to work on the Disability: Past and Present program. For our upcoming exhibition, launching in November, FilmABLE are producing a short cartoon aimed at children, inspired by our research of the disability history at The Devil’s Porridge Museum. A few weeks ago, a group from FilmABLE came to visit the musem and look at some of the objects and documents from our collections, and here learn about the project. 

We’re very excited to be working with FilmABLE again, and can’t wait to see what they come up with. 


Front cover of a green book titled 'Health of the Munition Worker.'

The Health of the Munition Worker

By Disability project

As the Disability: Past and Present project progresses, we’ve been continuing with our research and making arrangements for our exhibition in November. 

We’ve recently had an exciting donation from the family of a former worker at HM Factory Gretna. William Haddon was declared unfit for war service due to spinal problems but came to Gretna to work as an assistant to the Paymaster at Dornock. Luckily for us, William kept many of his correspondence from his years at the factory, which have been kindly donated by his family. We’re very excited to share more of his story with you in our upcoming book and exhibition. 

Whilst researching for the project, we’ve been looking through a lot of historic documents to get a sense of the conditions that munitionettes were working in. One key source has been a report published by the Ministry of Munitions in 1917 titled Health of the Munition Worker. 

This document was produced by the Ministry of Munitions as a guide for factory owners that emphasised the importance of safeguarding workers and implementing safety regulations. In the report you’ll find advice on ventilation, protective clothing and how best to handle dangerous substances. 

Aside from this, the Ministry of Munitions takes time to acknowledge the dangers of munitions work and the disabling injuries and conditions that it can cause. The report is considerate of the overall health and wellbeing of workers, and reminds employers of the need to value and respect their staff: 

‘the wise employer considers the personal well-being of his work people. He can no longer look upon his employees as merely “hands”, merely instrument to yield him produce’ [1] 

Overall, this report is a great resource for the Disability: Past and Present project, as it gives an insight into attitudes towards munitions workers and shows what steps the Ministry of Munitions were taking to make factories safer. 

We have been accessing this report through the Wellcome Collection online, where it is available for anyone to read. The link to the online version of the report is below: 

Health of the munition worker / handbook prepared by the Health of munition workers committee. | Wellcome Collection 

[1] Health of the Munition Workers, prepared by the Health of Munition Workers Committee. Ministry of Munitions, 1917. p. 14. 

A collage of wartime recruitment posters.

Disability and Propaganda

By Disability project

As part of the research for the Disability: Past and Present project, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Some of the most helpful resources I’ve found are the posters and proclamations used to recruit soldiers and war workers.  

What I’ve found very striking is the language used in this propaganda and how it excludes disabled people.

One thing that you come across regularly in this type of propaganda is an appeal for ‘fit’ men and women. The Ministry of Munitions were looking to recruit strong and resilient soldiers and war workers. They would go on to make appeals for ‘good sturdy men’ who are ‘able-bodied’. What they were looking for are men and women like those pictured in these “It All Depends On Me” posters, who were tough links in a chain that would withstand the impact of war. If you look at these images, you’ll see that the man and woman, who form part of the chain, stand proud and determined. They are the perfect candidates for war work, as the Ministry of Munitions sees it.

In these posters and proclamations, the imagery and language are patriotic, bold, attractive and inspiring. Clearly, it was not the purpose of this propaganda to discriminate against those with disabilities or chronic illnesses. The purpose of these posters was to recruit (mostly) men fit enough for active service. However, by trying to appeal to who they think will make the best soldier, these posters also make plain what kind of people they don’t want. 

If you were a disabled or chronically ill person seeing this propaganda, how would you feel? 

Disabled people are excluded from the idealistic image of a soldier or war worker, shown above. If you aren’t ‘fit’ or ‘sturdy’ enough to fight you may feel as though you can’t be of use to your country. At a time when patriotism was important – where ‘fit’ men were urgently needed and highly respected – you might feel unwanted. Even though this was not the intention, the propaganda suggests that disabled people are of little use during war. 

At The Devil’s Porridge Museum, we know that this is not true. People with disabilities and chronic illnesses formed part of the 30,000 strong workforce who worked tirelessly to make munitions. Even though they didn’t fight, they risked their lives in toxic, dangerous conditions to ensure victory. By producing munitions, disabled and chronically ill people contributed greatly to the war effort back home. In the Disability: Past and Present project, we will be sharing the stories of those workers with disabilities and chronic illnesses in our upcoming exhibition and book (which launch in November).


All images sourced from the Imperial War Museum. 

Their collections are available to access through this link: IWM Collections | Imperial War Museums 



Fit Men Wanted, The Imperial War Museums (Thames & Hudson, 2012)

A person stood outside.

Meet our Intern

By Disability project

I’m Ellie and from July until November I’ll be an intern at The Devil’s Porridge Museum, working on the Disability: Past and Present project. 

I’m looking to begin a career in museums and galleries and am particularly interested in curation and collections management. Already, at The Devil’s Porridge, I’ve been working in the object store with the collections, digitizing objects to help establish the museum’s online catalogue. Coincidentally, I have recently discovered that my great-great-grandmother Katie worked at HM Factory Gretna during the First World War. My Granny and I are searching for photographs of Katie, so that we can add her to the Miracle Workers’ Database. 

As a student, I spent my Undergraduate years at the University of Leeds and got my Master’s degree in Museums Studies from the University of Glasgow in 2018. As someone with a disability and chronic illness, I am really excited by the opportunity to work on this project. Since taking an interest in museums and galleries, it has shocked me how little there is written about the lives of disabled people across history: who have always existed and contributed so much to society. The opportunity to illuminate this previously untouched part of the collection at The Devil’s Porridge is incredibly exciting. It’s very encouraging to me that the organisation wants to explore new ways of interpreting their collections. 

In my research so far, it’s apparent that there are many gaps in disability history, especially when it comes to the subject of war. This project is unlike anything I’ve seen from other museums, and I’m very excited to create an exciting, accessible, sensory experience for visitors during the exhibition in November.  

When I’m not working at The Devil’s Porridge, I like to spend time outdoors with my three-legged dog Bobby. 

Translate »