She didn't know I was there. That fact, I think, is important to the story. On Sunday Joe and I decided to go over to the museum for an hour or so to catch a new exhibit. It's a terrific way to spend time, enjoyable, relaxing and educational. And, truth be told, they have an awesome cafe for lunch. One always must reinforce oneself with little treats. The cafe has the most incredible applesauce cake, it's aggressively CAKE. But, really, we went to the exhibit called 'Museum Secrets'.
When we arrived a small group was gathered around a display case holding the mummy of an infant child. There were too many people for me to get in on the one side of a museum staff giving a little talk about it, so I had to go around behind. It was more difficult to hear but I struggled and managed pretty well to catch what she was saying. She'd been talking for a little while and when I got there she was using a flashlight to highlight various hieroglyphics on the mummy itself. She explained what they meant in the cultural and religious life of the Egyptian people and most specifically the family of the 6 month old baby.
The, unexpectedly, she began to talk about the Egyptian approach to disability - in the culture of the time of the burial of the wee babe. She said that Egyptians were one of the few people who saw disabled children to be equal in value to typical children. They were not left to the elements, they were not dropped over cliffs, they were welcomed in and loved in the family. She said that there was all sorts of evidence of disability as part of every day life in Egypt. Crutches, canes and walking sticks along with crude prosthetic limbs were found all over Egypt. Disability was clearly not conceptualized in the way that it was in other cultures, or even, she said somewhat archly, today.
When she turned around to point at something else she saw me and as startled by my presence. She apologized for having her back to me and then included me naturally and easily into the question period. I asked a couple of disability related questions and she was fully able to talk about the evidence of people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy being included into Egyptian society. I was astonished that she knew these things, I was even more amazed that this was simply part of her presentation regarding this small child.
What was notable was the fact that those in attendance at her informal discussion were interested in what she had to say about Egyptian life and the incorporation of disability into the fabric of society. I could see people puzzling what they heard and thinking, deeply, about her words.
It seems that disability history is of interest to more than just those of us with disabilities. It seems that we can learn a lot about a culture and its values by looking at attitudes towards those who were born or who became 'different'.
After a lovely history lesson, as one should always do, we wrapped it up with chat over cake.