Inclusive Archive Project

The Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History Project

2015 - 2017

I worked with researchers with and without learning disabilities to scope and design The Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History. The digital archive prototype aimed to address issues around accessibility of archive material and the lack of an online, centralised repository for learning disability history materials.

The team was a collaboration of people with different abilities from Carlisle People First, The Open University, Leeds University, University of East London, The Woodbine Group and MultiMe.


I was involved in the early stages of the project when it was being scoped how the archive might work and what kind of things it needed to be accessible. It was clear that the scope of the project was not to archive actual objects, but point to where they could be found and the people who have access to them. Keeping with the, "Nothing about us, without us!" motto, one of the key premises of the archive is that anyone will be able to add to it, with minimal gate keeping to encourage people to feel they can be part of the archive.

I ran inclusive workshops with different stakeholders for the archive to scope the features the archive would have and encourage people to think freely as we were shaping our own archive, not necessarily following the rules set by other archives.

In the workshops we explored the things that archives are used for; adding your stuff and discovering people's stuff, but always with the idea that it can be done how we want to, not with the rules set by existing archives. I asked participants to bring an object that they might consider sharing with someone they didn't know. We then did things like tag objects with pictures, describe them with words and pictures, find connections between them and decide who we might share them with and for how long.

woman holding a boxing glove, man holding a memory box
Participants of the workshops and their objects

Tagging objects with symbols

Describing objects with words and pictures

Using yarn to connect objects which had similar properties or stories behind them

Talking about sharing with different audiences like everyone in the world, to medical professionals all the way down to only your best friend. It was also important to people to be able to change their mind with who they share with at any time, something which can be problematic in traditional archives. It was important for people to have ownership over their stuff.

Everyone's input led to the user journeys created below, which we actioned and used to guide the development of the digital archive.

Illustrated user journey for adding to our archive


Throughout the project, I worked with stakeholders of the archive to show them the digital archive in different stages of development and get their feedback to influence the user experience and features. This process was ongoing over the year whilst the technical team were developing the online archive.

Room of people doing a digital questionnaire
Testing with stakeholders using Kahoot

We tried out clickable prototypes of the archive and different versions of the pages on the website to try to make it appealing and accessible. We also worked extensively on making the registering process accessible and clear for adding content to the archive for absolutely everyone, including people who may be adding content on behalf of people with high support needs and considering the best practice for ensuring everyones stories can be heard but with their consent. My colleagues at The Open University have done extensive research on this which you can read here.

Design for a discover page on the archive

At the end of the project, a prototype digital archive had been created. I worked with the stakeholders to create content on the digital archive which was presented at the launch event.

5 people presenting an image called Wembley Sunday Market
The Woodbine Group presenting at the Launch event

I also collaborated on an article outlining the process and wider aims of the project:

Brownlee-Chapman, C., Chapman, R., Eardley, C., Forster, S., Green, V., Graham, H., Harkness, E., Headon, K., Humphreys, P., Ingham, N. and Ledger, S...(2017). Between speaking out in public and being person-centred: collaboratively designing an inclusive archive of learning disability history. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 1-15.

To read it click here