Chosen by Chris Hare on behalf of Worthing Society for the Blind
Worthing’s ‘A Journey in Time’ project is a lottery-funded project being run by Worthing Society for the Blind to fully explore the fascinating history of the sight-impaired community in Worthing and record this heritage for posterity. Volunteers are undertaking archival research and recording oral history interviews with blind and partially sighted people in Worthing to build up a picture of the changing experience of this community over the course of time. At the end of the two-year project there will be a book and DVD published and a public exhibition held in the town.
Initially the project focused on the archive held at the Society’s headquarters in Worthing; the Society was founded in 1910 and its archive includes minutes dating from its very first meeting. However we were delighted to discover that further archives relating to the experience of blind and partially sighted people were kept at WSRO.
These documents include the records of the East Preston workhouse where many blind or partially sighted Worthing residents ended their days (there will be a future blog post on East Preston workhouse plans if you would like to know more about life in the workhouse). However, we were particularly fascinated by the minute books of Milton House, the first county council-run home for blind people, opened at Worthing in 1937. The early minute books give great insight into changing perceptions of blindness at that time. Although the old Victorian view of blindness as a profound disability that could only be treated with pity had been replaced by more enlightened views, the very idea of blind people being put together in a ‘home’ strikes us today as being at best paternalist and at worst demeaning.
More information about A Journey in Time can be found on the project website here: http://www.ajourneyintime.org.uk/