Forthcoming talks, tours and events


 Aktion T4: A documentary film

Sunday 27 January 2019 | Museum open 2pm – 4pm

Film showing at 2.30pm

The Aktion T4 Nazi Euthanasia programme was responsible for the murder of approximately 275,000 people with learning disabilities.

In this 30 minute documentary film, Berge Kanikanian who has Down’s syndrome, travels to Poland and Germany to visit the sites of euthanasia centres and speaks to researchers and historians.

Please note this film is not suitable for anyone under 16 years of age.

This event is free. Booking not required.

Normansfield Theatre

11.00am – 12.00pm Saturday 9 February 2019

A talk on the history of Normansfield’s Grade II* listed Victorian theatre that opened in 1879 and is a venue today for drama, concerts and opera. Your visit includes a walk around the theatre and back rooms. On view will be part of the scenery store of restored original Victorian side flats. Using our interactive touch screen catalogue you can view the 150 items of scenery stored in the building that include beautiful backcloths, side flats, top borders and props.

Free talk. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection

Good animals, bad humans?

2pm Saturday 9 February 2019

In their quest to prove the interconnectedness of species, Victorian students of evolution viewed people with learning disabilities as proof of a human–animal continuum. Surprisingly, these ideas persist in some branches of moral philosophy today.

How did the minds of humans and other animals evolve from nothingness to consciousness? After Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists turned to the animal kingdom in their quest for answers. Somewhere in the evolutionary journey between the simplest single-cell organism and the higher primates, conscious thought must have emerged. But precisely at what point, and how did it come into being?

Speaker: Dr Simon Jarrett is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Birkbeck University of London. He writes about the history of intellectual disability, human capacity and intelligence.

This talk is free. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

James Henry Pullen and his pictorial autobiography

The Genius of Earlswood Asylum

11.00am – 12.00pm Saturday 16 March 2019

A talk about the life of James Henry Pullen, (1835-1916), a resident of the Royal Earlswood Asylum near Redhill. In his lifetime he was said to have the condition of savant syndrome though today he may have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Condition. Pullen created model ships including Brunel’s Great Eastern and the warship, Princess Alexandra. Also on display are his pictorial autobiography, imaginary ships, paintings and models along with a short film about his life.

Free talk. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Lucy: A Story from the Normansfield Archives

2pm – 3.30pm Saturday 16 March 2019

Archives might be considered the stalwart caretakers of many forgotten and ‘fragile’ histories – histories which can only be discovered and exposed through patient research and considered interpretation.

This presentation is based upon research carried out in the Normansfield Archive Collection (located at the London Metropolitan Archives). Much of the early material contained within the Archive Collection consists of correspondence received by the institution.

Lucy, the subject of this presentation, was admitted to Normansfield in 1879 at the age of 5. Her case is unusual because her grandmother, mother and father each wrote separately to the Langdon Downs, thus providing multiple perspectives on her case. The presentation makes use of their letters, allowing her story to unfold through the words of the three writers.

During the mass industrialisation of the Victorian period, the history of people with learning disabilities is inextricably connected to the history of the institutions they were made to inhabit. Lucy’s story demonstrates how archival documents can be used to rediscover a person, and reconstruct a story, both of which have been entirely lost over time.

Speaker: Sarah Hayward. Sarah joined Kingston University in 2012, and completed the taught MA in Museum and Gallery Studies the following year. Having felt that year fly by impossibly quickly, she applied to continue in higher education with a PhD. Sarah is conducting practice-based research into Normansfield Hospital, a former Victorian residential institution which was founded exclusively for the treatment of patients with learning disabilities. She is producing three creative pieces to accompany her Thesis for submission, the purpose of which is to explore how archival material might be interpreted and applied within a museum setting.