The history of the Bethlem Royal Hospital spans hundreds of years, bringing us right up to the present day. As such it can give an account of the history of the understanding of mental health issues and their treatment over the same period. Some of the collections may be controversial or challenging, raising issues such as consent or restraint. As part of our ongoing discussion, Confronting the Collections, we’d like to ask for your opinions on which of these objects we should or should not display, and how they should be interpreted in the museum.
Some of these items are representative of treatments or physical interventions that may provoke strong emotional responses, but nonetheless form an aspect of mental health care, past or present. ECT machines, like that pictured below, feature heavily in our collections, as do mechanical restraints including manacles, strait-jackets and other forms of ‘strong clothing’. How would you feel about viewing objects like this? What would it be important to understand if these artefacts were displayed? And how do we deal with the issues they raise today? The link below leads to a short questionnaire, that should take no more than ten minutes to complete. Your thoughts and ideas will be fed back to the designers to form an important part of the design of the new museum.