Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Dundee-based learning disabilities history project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

Strathmartine HospitalThe memories of people who lived and worked at an institution for people with a learning disability in Dundee are to be captured in a major new heritage project.

The Strathmartine Hospital was originally part of an asylum and orphanage in Baldovan, on the outskirts of Dundee, and was opened in the 19th century. It was decommissioned in the late 1980s and closed in 2003 as social care policies shifted to focus on people with a learning disability living in the community, rather than in institutions.

The project, which has secured £69,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will be led by people with a learning disability, many of whom lived at Strathmartine. They will use a new website, film, photographs and exhibitions to tell their stories to make sure the lessons of history are learned.

No longer institutionalised because of a disability
Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “The Strathmartine hospital histories project is opening up an important area of social history to many more people.

“It will be a catalyst for people to come together to learn from the past, to discuss the issues that face them and to understand the issues that face others.”

The Strathmartine Heritage project will become a record of a key element of social history. It will give former residents and staff a chance to tell their stories, which will be aimed at the policy makers and professionals of today, as well as the wider public, to ensure that people are no longer institutionalised simply because of a disability.

Capturing a piece of social history
As part of the year-long project, a toolkit will be developed to enable other people to recount their experiences, as well as a new training package for practitioners in the sector. A showcase event is planned to launch the project and share its findings.

Learning disability charity Thera Trust will lead the project, which also includes the University of Dundee, Advocating Together, Strathclyde Oral History Centre, the Living Memory Association and the Dundee Local History Group.

Denis Rowley, development consultant at Thera Trust, said: “We are delighted to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and believe this project will play an important part in capturing a piece of social history and to providing essential learning for the future.”

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