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Blind school history takes centre stage at Museum of Liverpool

The history of Liverpool’s School for the Blind – the first of its kind in the country – is being explored in a new exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.

The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places is on show in the waterfront attraction's Skylight Gallery.

The original school was opened in Commutation Row in 1791 by campaigner, abolitionist and radical Edward Rushton, who had lost his sight after catching an eye disease helping slaves while working on ships transporting them to the Americas.

It later moved to a bigger site in London Road, then in 1851 to Hardman Street, and lastly to its present location in Wavertree where the Royal School for the Blind has been based for the past 120 years.

Curators hope the exhibition will give visitors a moving insight into the daily lives of the pupils, the strict rules they had to follow, how they crafted objects for sale, and their leisure pursuits.

Exhibits will include objects from the museum’s own collection along with loans, personal stories and a film made in partnership with visually impaired and blind students from St Vincent’s School for Sensory Impairment in West Derby.

A miniature basket chair set made before the Second World War.

Top: The School for the Blind in Hardman Street. Courtesy NML Stewart Bale Collection.

The exhibition is curated in partnership with Accentuate’s History of Place project, which explores 800 years in the lives of deaf and disabled people, and highlights accessible interpretation including audio description, BSL and multisensory features.

The exhibition's display cabinets and multimedia installations are at wheelchair height, while there are items to touch, including a bust of Edward Rushton, and smell, and audio descriptions throughout the display.

Kay Jones, National Museum Liverpool’s curator of urban history, says: “The story of Liverpool’s Royal School for the Blind is not only a fascinating local story but has a much broader relevance too. The School has been through many changes and this exhibition draws on these to reflect changing attitudes in society.”

The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places is at the Museum of Liverpool from January 26 to April 15.

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