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Robert Bogdan Disability Collection

Call Number: Ms Coll 61

Scope and Contents

There are over 3,500 items in the collection, covering mainly the period from approximately 1870, when photographic images became widely available, through the 1970s, when the disability rights movement became an important force for social change. The items have been arranged by Dr. Bogdan in 14 large three-ring binders organized by topics. Their format varies but the great majority of the materials are postcards, and most of those are “real photo postcards.” Real photo postcards, as opposed to commercial photo postcards, were taken by individuals and developed on postcard stock rather than on photo paper. These postcards show people with a range of disabilities participating in regular life, pictures that might be found in family albums. The people are photographed as family members, friends and loved ones, not as clinical types. Other photo formats include cartes de visite, cabinet cards, as well as larger photographs, and snapshots. These are complemented by pamphlets and other printed materials. There are over one hundred pieces related to begging, primarily ephemera used by people with disabilities to solicit money. In addition, there are hundreds of items associated with organizations, both charities assisting people with disabilities, and other institutions where people with disabilities were confined. Most of the materials are from the United States, but some are from other countries.

Volume 15, containing additions to several other volumes and materials on the theme of obesity, was added to the collection in 2022.


  • 1820s-1990s
  • 1900-1940


Language of Materials

Materials are almost entirely in English. Some items are in German, French, or other languages.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been transferred to Yale University for unpublished materials in the collection. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The materials were collected by Professor Robert Bogdan. Volumes 1-14 were purchased by the Historical Library in 2018. Voulume 15 was purchased in 2022.


The numbering and titles of the volumes and the order of the images was determined by Professor Bogdan.


4 Linear Feet (15 large ring binders) ; 29.5 cm

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection contains real photo postcards, commercial postcards, photographs, pamphlets and ephemera related to people with disabilities, mostly from the United States, collected by Professor Robert Bogdan, a pioneer in the teaching of disability studies.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Bogdan is Professor Emeritus of Social Science and Education at Syracuse University. He compiled an archive guided by the ideas of the field of Disability Studies, an approach that focuses on “disability” as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon. An early pioneer in that field, Bogdan has taught courses related to it since 1971. He started collecting disability ephemera in the early 1980s in order to advance his research and writing. As Bogdan began collecting he realized that although there were archives and collections related to specific aspects of disability and particular disability-related organizations, none took a broad Disability Studies approach.

Robert Bogdan Disability Collection
Toby A. Appel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Finding aid revised by Katherine Isham to include new accession.

Part of the Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library Repository

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