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This blog is written by staff at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum: in particular, Archivist Colin Gale and Friends Secretary Sarah Chaney, with contributions by other staff members and guest writers. Sarah is responsible for moderation and comments. Posts and comments reflect the personal opinions of staff, and should not be regarded as representative of the official opinion of either the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust or the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust.
The Archives and Museum is located at the Bethlem Royal Hospital – the original ‘Bedlam’, one of the world’s oldest hospitals for the treatment of mental illness. Founded in 1247 as the priory of St Mary of Bethlehem, the Hospital has been housed on four different sites throughout its history – most famously at St George’s Fields (1815 – 1930), now the Imperial War Museum – and is currently located at Monks Orchard, Beckenham, in the south-east suburbs of London (Visit Us).
The Archives and Museum records the lives and experience and celebrates the achievements of people with mental health problems. It now houses art and historical collections spanning many centuries which are of unique interest and importance in the field of mental health. These include the archives of Bethlem Hospital and the Maudsley and Warlingham Park Hospitals; an outstanding collection of paintings and drawings, including works by Richard Dadd, Louis Wain, Jonathan Martin, and William Kurelek; the statues of ‘Raving and Melancholy Madness’ from the gates of 17th century Bethlem; and many other documents and artefacts of historic and artistic significance. The art collection and archive catalogue can be found online at www.bethlemheritage.org.uk.
In 2014, the Archives and Museum will relocate to the main Administration Building on the Bethlem Hospital site. This will allow improved services for visitors, including a larger display area for the museum collection, education facilities and reading rooms for researchers. The new Archives and Museum service will open in 2015, and the project is currently in the fundraising stage, with designs and plans being developed for a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.