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NDACA: From the past, the future... / 16 November 2015

A selfie taken with a special Rostrum Camera of NDACA archivist Alex Cowan, he has tape around his mouth and his eyes closed, with detritus surrounding him

A 'selfie' taken with the Rostrum Camera

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Since July 2015 I’ve been working with the artists and organisations whose pledges are going to form much of the NDACA (National Disability Arts Collection & Archive) collection. They’ve put up with my visits and questions and finalised what they think best illustrates the Disability Arts Movement and the personal experience, social and political struggles that informed it, from each of their points of view and as shown within their pledges.

Come 2017, NDACA will boast a wealth of digitally and traditionally preserved artwork, an awesome web interface and a university library wing that will make it “knowledge central” for audiences that want to learn about this moment, this movement or to contribute by writing that history themselves by uploading their own material. NDACA will also help to identify and nurture the new generation of DAM artists: this will not be the end of anything but the continuation of a fascinating movement. 

Just like working in the BBC Community & Disability Programmes Unit in the 1990s the experience for me as archivist has been a dynamic one, introducing me to great artists, great art and great partners. My archiving journey for NDACA has served as a reminder that great art, culture and heritage speaks of individual and collective experiences. And it’s also highlighted DAM artists as often creating at the cutting edge of new techniques, adopting and experimenting with digital technologies well before the mainstream.

Next comes the apparently “dull” part, when all the pledged and digitised works have to be listed and described in catalogue that addresses the required library and archive standards while also providing accessible records for non-academic users and the Google generation of web only researchers. We want an NDACA catalogue that users can help create and enhance, but one where every record can be found and trusted.

An important step will be the creation of a “controlled vocabulary” which will have to limit possible terms of description while insuring that the chosen names, keywords and descriptors are relevant and meaningful to all users. How do people who are part of the Disability Arts Movement or who want to learn more about it describe who they are and what they see or want to find?  NDACA will use the words and terms created by these users wherever possible. 

In 2016 I’ll be driving the NDACA artists and organisations up the wall with fine detail questions for the catalogue record – it will include DAO and it could also include you! Indeed, if you feel you have a work, piece of ephemera or a Disability Arts Movement heritage story that should be told through NDACA, let me know about it. Contact me on 

Please click on this link to find out more about Shape Arts and the NDACA Project