The National Paralympic Heritage Trust (NPHT) is now able to realise its dream of a heritage centre to celebrate the Paralympic movement.

The new project launched on 14th July, the same day as the World Para Athletics Championships 2017 began in London.

“The British Paralympic Movement represents a key element of British disability history,” says Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East. “And we are delighted to see this project get off the ground to share that story as widely as possible.”

The first permanent exhibition is to be built at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. Aside from the permanent exhibition, there will be a nationwide programme of regional exhibitions starting in March 2018. These will be touring Manchester, London, Norwich, Bradford and Bath.

The five-year project will focus on the history of how the Paralympic movement developed, from its origins at Stoke Mandeville Hospital right through to the modern day.

The exhibitions will feature unique items that illustrate the history of the British Paralympic movement. These include Guttmann’s surgical box and medals from the first games.

The funding comes in the nick of time. A wide range of equipment and memorabilia was at risk of being lost. Collections and archives are scattered right across the UK at present.

hese will be catalogued and digitised for the first time. People will now have the opportunity to access this vital resource in one place.

The earliest recorded wheelchair games took place in the UK in 1923. However the origins of the Paralympic movement date back to 1943 when Dr Ludwig Guttmann set up the Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Dr Guttmann believed that sport was a vital form of therapy for his patients – injured military personnel. He believed it not only helped them build up physical strength but also fostered self-respect.

In 1948, Dr Guttmann created The Stoke Mandeville Games, to coincide with the London Olympic Games. His ultimate vision was of an international games. This was realized in 1960 when the Paralympic Games were held in Rome, after the Summer Olympics.

“Great Britain’s unique role in the development of the Paralympic movement and the inspirational success of ParalympicsGB will now be celebrated,” adds Stuart McLeod. “It’s wonderful news.”

Image: National Paralympic Heritage Trust

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