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

29 March 2011

By Bridget Telfer, Project Curator, Royal College of Physicians

18th century print of a disabled man

Thomas Inglefield (b1769). Image © Royal College of Physicians

This gallery represents a sample of images from an exhibition exploring four centuries of hidden history with responses from disabled people today. It contains a group of rare portraits from the 17th to the 19th centuries, held by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). 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 (b 1769), who was born without legs or hands, are now forgotten.

The exhibition uncovers the hidden histories behind the portraits and looks at their impact today through contemporary responses from disabled people. Click on the thumbnails below, to read commentary from a sample of the 27 disabled participants from across the UK who were invited to be filmed and to have their photographic portraits taken, as part of the exhibition.

The exhibition can be viewed at the Royal College of Physicians, London until 8 July 2011. For visiting information and the online version of the exhibition please visit the RCP website at:


Bridget Telfer

14 April 2011

There is a special Saturday opening of the exhbition this Saturday 16 April 10am-2pm. This includes a FREE 30-minute guided tour of the Royal College of Physicians remarkable Grade 1 listed building and collections at 11.30am. The Purple Poets are also coming along to run a poetry workshop at 12pm - creating poetry inspired by the exhibiton. All are welcome to join and there is no need to book. Hope to see you then.

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