The Carrying of Passengers is Forbidden unfolded the hidden histories of motoring design, social policy and disability, through interdisciplinary research into the ‘invalid tricycle’, a three-wheeled vehicle issued to disabled users. It examined official, and obscured unofficial accounts and silences, to explore approximately 75 years of disability mobility provision by the UK Government and explain how a multitude of ‘sanctioned’ decisions led to a dangerous, yet liberational, dichotomic package of ‘care’.
The results of the research were presented in an exhibition, The Carrying of Passengers is Forbidden, which in stage one was thematically curated around the WW1 period as showcased in Liverpool and was further developed in stage two to include the WW2 period and the NHS for later exhibitions, such as at Beamish Museum. The exhibition took the form of a multimedia installation consisting of photographic research, video interview, period archive film, innovative 3D animation, toy tricycle, tricycle ephemera, art installation and the use of a period invalid tricycle.
The research was deliberately located in the North East and North West of England to enable partnership development (10 cultural partners) and volunteer collaboration. The research led to McKeown being invited to contribute to important national exhibitions, events and global mainstream media.
The Carrying of Passengers is Forbidden stepped outside normative museology (Sandell and Dodd, 2010) to intervene intellectually in multiple discourses; design for disability (Goldsmith, 1992; Guffy, 2017), the mobilities paradigm (Goggin, 2016), technology and disabled people (Roulstone, 1998; Harris, 2010; Nussbaum, 2011; Millar, 2014), material culture studies and Universal Design (Imrie, 2014), fine art, heritage and motor history. It developed new knowledge and analysis within design and disability history in order to provide a critical account rich in a range of perspectives.
McKeown revealed lost and absented national and international records, recognising iconic but once quotidian disability motor vehicles, to create a cohesive model of museum and gallery practice. The resulting transformations of notions of the invalid tricycle built a significant research narrative, instigating a more holistic, inclusive approach to mainstream motoring history. McKeown acts as a pioneer in acknowledging a cultural status and relevance, previously missing, ignored and suppressed.
By identifying and analysing at risk and forgotten materials, McKeown established the UK's most extensive collection of historic disability-related vehicles and contemporaneous ephemera. This led to significant engagement with the UK Disability Art festival, DaDaFest International (2018), the Museum of Liverpool, St Georges Hall and Beamish - The Living Museum of the North, creating a model for engagement with the public, producers and historians to ensure recognition and contextualisation of lost history.
McKeown secured Heritage Fund support, commissioned the first book on disability tricycles, created an innovative 3D interactive heritage animation and with disabled volunteers, informed new approaches to curation by museums. As an expert, his contribution was sought by Channel 4’s Great British Car Journeys, Forces TV and the BBC Four's People’s History of the NHS.
Through this research, McKeown became the voluntary Director of the Invalid Carriage Register, custodian and co-creator of a unique archive, and custodian of elements of the Disabled Motoring UK archives.