Why Do We Maim?

View of a long wall case full of clubs with a series of bright pink graphics in the lower part of the display

Why do we Maim?

Nothing Without Us: Experiences of Disability Trail at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Club Displays, Cases 30 to 31A, Second Floor


Clubs are designed first and foremost to maim, rather than kill. The ones on display here are ceremonial symbols of power and authority. Many people have been disabled by violence or live with the threat. Our focus is so often directed to pitying the maimed, rather than challenging the systems that maim them. How can disabled people's experiences help us reflect on acts of violence both mental and physical?

 Battle Scarred

An angular fragment of white plaster showing a relief of two men with arms restrained behind their backs, facing the right as if walking.

Cast of a Battlefield Palette. Ancient Egyptian Predynastic (around 3100 BCE). Donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1921. 1917.53.803.

Warfare is and has always been inherently disabling. Some of the earliest depictions of conflict focus on the act of maiming, such as the case with this image of the fragmented Battlefield Palette. Capturing the aftermath of a battle, we witness two bound, captive enemies being led away, their bodies restricted and contorted in unnatural ways. Their captors are abstract representations of the King, emphasising his right to maim.

Kyle J., a battle scarred self-advocate

View the collections entry for the cast with zoomable image.


A Feeling Like Wearing a Glove

An open hand fabricated out of stitched cotton

A Feeling like Wearing a Glove by Juliet Eccles. A clothwork hand representing Juliet's recovery from paralysis. Cloth and polyester. United Kingdom. Loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2023.

Aged thirteen, Juliet broke her neck during a riding accident that paralyzed her from the neck down. One doctor believed she would need an Iron Lung, but an RAF doctor believed she could make a recovery. After nine months in hospital and a further six at an RAF rehabilitation centre, Juliet made a partial recovery. While left with imbalanced movement and impaired feeling in her hands, Juliet returned to riding and went on to win dressage while representing Riding for the Disabled.

Juliet, E., An Artist who also happens to be disabled



A Kintsugi Heart

A human heart made from cream cotton fabric with gold stitching in vein-like pattern

A Kintsugi Heart by Juliet Eccles, representing her relative's experience of multiple heart surgeries and their resilience. Cloth and Polyester with gold thread, United Kingdom. Loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2023.

Patrick was born with a hole in the heart. He had open heart surgery aged four to mend a leaky valve. The surgeons brutally cut him from his neck to his navel and broke his rib cage to mend the heart. Four decades later, with modern technology the surgeons repaired the valve again with a less invasive procedure. He is now a healthy adult aged fifty-six. Gold’s corrosion resistance makes it ideal for the high degrees of sterility required for medical instruments. Kintsugi can be seen as a metaphor for resilience, healing, and beauty in its brokenness. It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the breakage with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.

Juliet, E., An Artist who also happens to be disabled



Bent Big Toes

A human left foot made from cream cotton with the big toe tucked under the adjacent toe.

Bent Big Toe by Juliet Eccles. A clothwork foot, representing Christopher Houston (1970–2008) and his condition of F.O.P. (Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva). Cloth and Polyester, United Kingdom. Loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2023.

Chris (1970 to 2008) lived with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. A debilitating disease where bone forms in muscles, other soft tissues of the body and joints, restricting movement. The first sign is being born with crooked big toes. A surgeon’s brutal intervention to straighten Chris’s toes triggered a flare up that made the surgeon realise his mistake. His words - “Oh my god, what have I done” - resonated in my mothers’ ears. The genetic mutation on the white blood cell travels to where there is a flare up and slowly over the years, your body becomes distorted and encased in bone.

Juliet, E., An Artist who also happens to be disabled

The Reclamation of Ryan Brown


An embroidered grid of five rows of five squares in a chequerboard pattern. Different designs fill each squares, except for the four corners which are left blank

The Reclamation of Ryan Brown by Ryan Brown and Dr Adam Keilthy. Blackwork embroidery, United Kingdom, Loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2023.

This piece represents Ryan’s ongoing journey of self-reclamation following his experiences of trauma and grief. There are patches representing activities and words that have formed part of his recovery. 

Ryan B.

Gallery plan of second floor of museum showing case locations and trail stop highlighted with pink spots

Plan of second floor showing location of trail stop. Turn right through the doorway from the stairs or lift, and the stop is a few metres down the aisle, in the floor to ceiling wall display case on the right side.

This co-produced gallery trail was developed in partnership with the Curating for Change project. Supported by Accentuate and Screen South, the project provides opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people to pursue a curatorial career in museums.

Find out more about Curating for Change


Curating for Change Logo







Accentuate logo in pink


Screen South Logo


National Lottery Heritage Fund Logo




art fund logo
Arts Council England Logo