Disability History Collections

Posted: 13th December 2021

Humber Museums Partnership - Disability History Collections

Across Hull Museums we have quite a few objects in our collections that represent disability and mental health throughout history. We have been working with volunteers from our local communities to help us start exploring these stories. We began this work for Disability History Month (November 18th – 20th December) but this is an ongoing project for us, as we aim to increase the representation of Hull and the people that live here via the inclusion of more authentic and personable narratives throughout all we deliver.

The first object in our collection we have been looking at is this light blue Invacar from the 1970s.

We spoke with Mark Baggley who shared his own experience of owning one of these three-wheeled vehicles –

“As a young, active disabled person, all I wanted was my independence and one benefit of being disabled was that you could learn to drive when you were 16. This meant that shortly after my 16th birthday, I was provided with a bright blue Invacar (Or “Noddys” as we used to call them as that was far better than their official title of Invalid Carriage!)

They were basic, made of fibreglass, could only seat one person, but had room to fold a wheelchair up next to you. There was also very limited luggage space, more of a parcel shelf. My first lesson was quite dramatic, as I touched the accelerator, it shot across the garden, hitting my Grandma on the way past. Luckily, it was only a glancing blow and she was fine!

After this traumatic start, things improved (as did my independence) and I drove it all over the UK, but in particular between Scunthorpe where I lived and to college in Coventry. The cars went up to about 60 mph (slightly faster if you got caught in the slipstream of a lorry), but were very light and on windy days they could be quite scary. Going across the M62 was not particularly pleasant. Also, as they had three wheels, this caused further problems when it snowed as all the clear bits of road were from vehicles with 2 wheels on each side (rather than 2 at the back and 1 at the front), so you often found yourself snowploughing through the un-cleared snow in the middle of the road.

You were instructed not to alter them in any way (you had to ask permission even to install a radio) and under no situation should you carry passengers. Most of us broke this second rule on a regular basis, with a friend/girlfriend, etc. sitting on the floor next to the driver so we could socialise and as a Manchester United supporter, I regularly drove across the midlands to see United play at Leicester, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, etc. with another United mad friend sat on the floor, so he couldn’t be seen by the police…

Although, the design, safety and being unable to carry passengers (legally), left them far behind a “proper” car, mine did give me a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t have otherwise had and opened up a whole world of social opportunities including going to the pub, cinema and visiting family and friends.

One other strange design feature was that your key could open any other Noddy and a friend of mine was surprised to return to where he’d parked his vehicle and someone he knew had “borrowed” it!

As cars and adaptations improved, the Noddy was gradually phased out and that was a good thing as there were a lot of accidents with them. After years of driving mainstream cars I think I would be terrified to drive one today, but it was a great improvement to my life at the time.”

Find out more about the Invacar in this Curator’s Choice blog written by Caroline Rhodes, Collections Curator at Hull Museums – https://humbermuseums.com/stores/curators-choice-invacar/

Would you like to get involved?

We’re looking for more volunteers to help us explore disability history through our collections. If you choose to take part, we will provide you with a list of objects so you can choose one that is of interest to you.

After choosing an object, artwork or photograph and spending some time researching it, you might want to –
• write a blog
• record a short film or audio track with your thoughts about the object
• create something artistic (a poem or artwork for example) in response
• or something else – however you feel comfortable creating content

What you create will be shared on our social media pages and/or posted on this page, and you can choose to stay anonymous if you don’t want your name to be shared online.

To give you more of an idea of the sort of things we’ve created ourselves in the past, take a look at these (we have edited the automatic subtitles on the Youtube videos, so please turn on the captions if you need them) –

Short film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLzWtAFxxwc

Poem – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56bjnoeRDi0

If you’d like to be involved, please get in touch and we will send you a copy of the list of objects mentioned above. If you’d prefer to meet in person or online to talk about it further, we can arrange that too (please let us know if you would need a BSL interpreter for this).

Please get in touch with Esther by emailing museums@hcandl.co.uk

Download this information in a different format here –

Large Print – Disability History Month advert – Large Print

Easy Read – Disability History Month advert – Easy Read

Audio –