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Welcome to room 1

The Materiality of Invisibility

An online exhibition by The Lyme Museum

Welcome to the first online exhibition by The Lyme Museum, The Materiality of Invisibility, curated by The Lyme Museum founder, Dr Angela Stienne. Watch the video below (it has close captioning) for an introduction to this project, visit the other rooms to see the flat lays exhibition and our featured artists and come back often as it is a growing and ever evolving exhibition. 

Hover over the boxes to learn about some terms that relate to the exhibition


What is a museum?

Traditionally a museum is a place where things are collected, studied, displayed and looked after.

But a museum is more than just stuff. It is a place that decides what matters, what is represented, who is represented and how these things, people, cultures and meanings are organised.

A museum is not a neutral place and can be a place of trauma and misrepresentation. It can also be a place of story-telling.


What is a disability?

Disability is a term that refers to any physical or mental condition that limits a person's movement, activities or senses. 

A disability can be visible or invisible; you might not be able to tell if someone is disabled, because they might not use any assistive aid like a wheelchair, or because their aid is not visible outside. 


It does not matter, outside visibility does not define a person's disability.


What does materiality mean?

Material culture is a term that refers to physical objects and architecture that represent our lived experience of an environment. 

Material culture has often been described as any object or beliefs systems that help humans live and represent their identity - this is what we are looking at with this exhibition.

In museums, material culture is the stuff that goes on display; often they serve a narrative.


What is representation and why does it matter?

Illnesses and disabilities can be invisible; that does not mean they do not matter. And yet, from diagnosis to accessibility in every day life, individuals with invisible illnesses and disabilities often feel misrepresented or that their whole existense is denied; they are made invisible.

Representation matters: from places of leadership, to every day accessibility to museums, the world will not be inclusive if representation does not exist.


What is an invisible illness?

An invisible illness is an illness that is not easily noticable on a person, but it is also, and often, an illness that is hard to diagnose or cure.


Lyme Disease, which gave its name to this museum, is an invisible illness; many individuals do not 'look sick' and their illness might not show on blood tests for example.

Of course, the idea that one must 'look sick' to be sick is a societal problem that relates to ableism.


What is ableism?

Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities. 


There are many forms of ableism, and often they include ideas that individuals need fixing or that accessiblity requirements are too much to accommodate.

Another form of ableism is policing language or using derogatory language. For example, disabled is not a bad word, and many disabled people find using differently-abled incredibly derogatory. First person language gives people agency. Respect the ill/disabled person's choice of representation.

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