This week we’ve been compiling much of the feedback received from our online questionnaires as well as those completed in person at various events. Reading through the wealth of experiences and ideas presented has been truly humbling, and incredibly valuable for developing the Museum of the Mind displays. While it will take a while to sift through some of the more detailed discussion points, and respond to those who were keen to contribute their stories, artwork and ideas to the museum, we wanted to feed back as much as possible to our supporters right away.
In particular, the response to our branding survey was eye-opening. We asked people to choose between three different logo designs for the Museum of the Mind (pictured below), having initially expected that one of these would ultimately be chosen. There was no clear winner, however, with almost exactly equal numbers choosing the window and clocktower logos, while around a third of respondents hated all of the designs! The strength of feeling in the last group was particularly noticeable. Many pointed out that the Museum of the Mind had a complex and diverse set of messages to get across, and it would make sense to persevere in developing something more representative of this. As one respondent put it, “The museum is such a diverse and creative resource that I feel there should be more reflection of the fluid and progressive nature of the stories told and records held.” From this, we have decided to shelve the designs, and are considering alternatives, including the possibility of holding a competition to design an image, or using a number of different elements from our art collection.
History, it seems, repeats itself. In 1810, the Bethlem Governors decided to hold a competition to design the new hospital, placing an advertisement in The Times offering prizes of £200, £100 and £50 for the best three plans submitted. Over thirty entries were received, and prizes awarded (in order of merit) to William Lochner (c. 1780 – 1861), J.A. and G.S. Repton and John Dotchen. A further award, of £35, was made to James Tilly Matthews, a London tea-broker and Bethlem resident, whose intriguing case forms the subject of Mike Jay’s The Influencing Machine. Matthews’ dossier of plans and explanations are all that remain in the archive, for none of the designs were ultimately used. Instead, Bethlem’s Surveyor, James Lewis, was instructed to incorporate the best features of all the plans into a design of his own. Matthews, apparently, continued to present his ideas to Lewis, in an effort to influence the creation of a building that suited its patients, as well as its staff.
This patient narrative is one which has received much support for inclusion in the new museum. While the vast majority of questionnaire respondents have stated categorically that as many perspectives should be presented in the new museum as possible, the narrative most frequently flagged up as important (by a third of people) has been that of mental health service users, past and present. Many people (whether service users themselves or not) felt that this group had been historically marginalised, and that staff and official representatives are likely to be automatically involved in the creation of the museum. Certainly, the Bethlem Art Collection has always ensured that service users have had a strong presence in the Museum, but we intend the new museum to do more to draw immediate attention to the diversity of voices involved in the history of mental health at the outset, as well as flagging up the perspectives of service users on topics that, historically, have been seen from a medical perspective: diagnosis and medication, for example.
As the plans are developed further, we will provide updates on the process of design on this Blog, and welcome any additional feedback at any stage in the process. Once again, an enormous thank you to all those who have responded so far: your contributions have been invaluable.
Abandoned logo designs for the Museum of the Mind