Archive Page 2

The Advertisement Archive I

An envelope was recently sent to the Archives & Museum containing a small sample of mental hospital and psychiatric drug advertisements published in the Journal of Mental Science (the forerunner of the British Journal of Psychiatry) in the 1930s and 1940s. Such advertisements were commonly printed at the front and end pages of professional journals. Though the Journal of Mental Science is now available to consult online, the front and end matter of its mid-twentieth century issues have not been digitized, so advertisements like these can only be consulted in libraries that retain print copies of the Journal.

Until now, that is. There is no place in our holdings here at the Archives & Museum for an ephemeral collection like the one that has been sent to us. But we have decided to publish images of these stray pages here on the Bethlem Blog. From now until next June, we intend to show you one each month: hospital advertisements in 2013 – starting today with Holme Lacy in Hereford – and drug and other treatment advertisements in 2014.

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Museum of the Mind: Whose Narrative?

One of the questions we asked in our recent consultation for the Museum of the Mind was whose narrative should lead visitors through the exhibition? As we commented at the time, the history of Bethlem Hospital in particular, and psychiatry more generally, incorporates many different – at times conflicting – perspectives. But whose should be highlighted in the museum? Nearly half of respondents to our surveys thought that patients’ voices should be given most attention, while only a handful considered other narratives (such as staff and relatives) to be especially important. The reasons for this tended to reflect the sense that this group has been historically marginalised, for example ‘because they are not always listened to’ or ‘because other groups are likely to be involved automatically in the “process”’. As one respondent stressed: ‘While I would not a priori designate one voice as being more important, it needs to be emphasized how frequently the ‘patient voice’ within psychiatry has been marginalized and occluded, and therefore how critical it is that adequate attention is given to this voice to ensure that it is not lost.’ This is certainly a view that we will strive to consider throughout our plans, ensuring that the museum reflects lived experience as much as theory and practice.

It must be noted, though, that just as many people stated that no one voice was more important than others and that the museum should reflect a range of experiences and opinions within mental health care, past and present. Even those who stated firmly that patients’ voices were most important also wanted other perspectives to be used alongside this. Interestingly, many considered that giving visitors an opportunity to feed back during their tour formed part of this diversity. Many people made generous offers to contribute to displays, something we hope to develop into ongoing opportunities, such as changing exhibitions or art installations which offer alternative perspectives on the material.

It was made clear to us throughout that feedback within the museum can encourage ongoing debate over the topics raised. Thus, regularly changing comments on a particular topic could be added to the exhibition as visitors give them, for example, raising critical awareness and encouraging more people to get involved. This is something that we are now building into the introduction to the display, offering an opportunity for everyone to be part of the narrative of the Museum of the Mind.

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Location, Location 5

The story of Bethlem’s four sites having been told in earlier posts to this thread, the Archivist now turns his attention to the siting of the other hospitals for which the Archives & Museum holds records: Croydon Mental Hospital this month, and the Maudsley Hospital in November.

Until 1903, Croydon Council fulfilled the statutory responsibility, imposed on all local authorities by successive Lunacy Acts, of care for the ‘pauper lunatics’ of the Borough by arranging for their residence elsewhere – notably Cane Hill Asylum, Fisherton House near Salisbury and the Isle of Wight Asylum. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, the Council brought forward plans to build an asylum of its own, and bought a seventy-acre acre site for the purpose in Warlingham, six miles south of Croydon.

The Hospital’s first Medical Superintendent was appointed in March 1902, before any patients had been admitted and while building work was still underway, and visited the site regularly to advise the architects “on all details affecting the future working of the Institution, such as the position of telephones, electric bells, tell-tale clocks, disinfector, fire alarms, operating theatre, screens in the corridors, hatchways to the various stores, covering up of all obvious points of suspension…that would act as a help and incentive to suicide”.1

The buildings, according to the Hospital’s first annual report, were “of the plainest and simplest character, all superfluous ornament having been avoided and every part having been treated with a view to economy”.2 The Superintendent noted that the removal of tree stumps and brushwood by the unemployed of Croydon during the winter of 1902-03 “proved a great blessing as regards the aspect and view of the whole Institution” as well as having allowed for “a larger cricket and recreation field, and more land for farm purposes”.3 At that time, 38 acres of land were given over to the cultivation of produce such as potatoes, cabbages and strawberries.4 In this way (and in several others), a self-sustaining element was introduced into hospital life from the outset.

A history of Croydon Mental Hospital (renamed Warlingham Park in 1937) will not be attempted here; for those who are interested, an outline may be found within the Archives & Museum’s This is Your Hospital web resource. Having opened in 1903, the Hospital was closed in 1999. By that time, Croydon’s mental health services had been subsumed into those run by Bethlem and the Maudsley Hospitals. All Warlingham Park’s buildings (save only its distinctive clock tower) were subsequently demolished and the site redeveloped for suburban housing.

1 Croydon Mental Hospital, Warlingham, Surrey: First Report of the Visiting Committee (1904), p. 21

2 ibid. p. 12

3 ibid. p. 22

4 ibid. p. 31

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The Clocktower in 2013

Mansions in the Orchard: New oral history project

We’re pleased to announce that the Bethlem Archives & Museum will be starting a new oral history and photography project, focused on the twentieth century hospital at Monks Orchard, and funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award scheme. The modern Bethlem site, opened in 1930, has long been overshadowed by interest in Victorian ‘Bedlam’. Yet there is much we can learn from the red-brick buildings, described by Bethlem’s chaplain E.G. O’Donoghue in the 1920s as ‘splendid mansions rising in the woods’.1

While one of these original ‘mansions’ – the Art Deco administration building – is converted into the new Museum of the Mind, we will be exploring the history of Bethlem and its place in twentieth-century mental health care. As the fabric of the building is peeled back, layer by layer, revealing architectural changes over the decades, new photography will bring the building to life, revealing the traces of those who have used it over the years. A new monthly series on the blog will provide regular updates on the project.

This will also help to expand the archive collection and displays by adding personal reflections (like those of O’Donoghue) to the archive. At present, much of this sort of material in our records comes from the Victorian hospital (now the Imperial War Museum), in the form of letters, diaries, photographs, personal papers, concert programmes and more. Yet we have very little contextual material about the present site, and the records are primarily administrative. We know from plans, for instance, that there was originally an entertainment hall behind the administration building. But we have no notes or ephemera on the plays, lectures and concerts that were undoubtedly performed.

In this project, then, we will be exploring the history of people who have used the site, whether as staff, patients, visitors or local residents. Would you be interested in being interviewed about your memories of twentieth-century Bethlem? Whether you worked here decades ago (or, indeed, still do), used to sing in the chapel as a child, or have used the services in the past, we would like to hear from you.

If you would be interested in getting involved in the Mansions in the Orchard project, please contact Sarah Chaney, Project Co-ordinator, on sarah.chaney@slam.nhs.uk. If possible, let us know in a few sentences what your connection with the hospital was.

1 Under the Dome, 1929, p. 8

 Photograph of the Bethlem Chaplain on the wooded site, 1920s

O’Donoghue on the wooded site in the late 1920s.

Museum of the Mind: Challenging Objects Feedback

Recently, we asked readers to respond to a questionnaire on how we might display challenging objects in the Bethlem collection in the new Museum of the Mind. In particular, we flagged up historical restraints and ECT machines, but other items were also noted to be potentially distressing or difficult for museum visitors, including images of physical illness or death, tools for psychosurgery and patients’ belongings. However, the vast majority of people felt that all these items should, nonetheless, be put on display, and did not necessarily feel that the visitor should be warned in advance or given the chance to opt out of seeing the objects.

In part, this attitude seems to have been associated with the concern that difficult questions within mental health care, past and present, might be brushed under the carpet. If unpleasant items were ignored, those people who participated in the focus groups insisted, this would risk sanitising the history of mental health care, as well as refusing to acknowledge ongoing concerns, for example the side effects of medication. Yet some people also indicated that an exhibition of mental health that viewed the topic only through changing medical ideas and treatments ran the risk of objectifying patients. An exhibition, then, should also seek to show something about the daily lives and experiences of those in mental distress.

We aim to address these issues in the Museum of the Mind aims by dividing the display into a number of themes, rather than following the history of psychiatry chronologically. Those particularly relevant to the challenging objects mentioned above will be a section on ‘Freedom and Constraint’, looking at the physical and social constraints that have been and are imposed on those within the mental health system, as well as the reverse: the relief some people have found in the natural world, for example, or the freedom of creativity in art. Meanwhile, a section on ‘Heal or Harm’ will look critically at the history of therapeutics, including physical and psychological therapies.

The huge number of questions raised around these challenging objects in the consultation, from when items were made and how they were used, to what it was like to experience them suggest that there is a lot we need to squeeze into the museum. While this might not always be possible in display spaces, we’re looking at alternative ways to convey as much detail as we can. Where, of course, this detail is known. As in any museum, we can be limited by the information collected. For example, we currently know little more about the metal restraints in our care (pictured below) than are visible from looking at them! The planned displays, however, seek to make this an opportunity rather than a challenge, allowing for multiple stories to be attached to any particular object.

Manacles in the Bethlem collection

In the Frame for September 2013

In the Frame goes on holiday once again, as our Education Officer takes a trip to Edinburgh. She writes:

I have to confess to not being a particular fan of Richard Dadd, to not really ‘getting it’, but I have always liked his portrait of Alexander Morison, visiting physician to Bethlem Hospital where Dadd was a patient following the murder of his father. Seeing the picture for the first time in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in a room where it was surrounded by very traditional portraits of the great and the good, was transformative. Dadd’s painting looked startlingly modern and vibrant; the flashes of red, warm yellows and lush greens providing a foil for the starker figure of Morison himself, upright in contrast to the twisted trees, the surface less polished, lending more energy and immediacy. It appeared, perhaps helped also by its more modest scale, more human and less pompous than some of its neighbours.

Dadd depicts the Morison family house at Newhaven, with the Firth of Forth gleaming dully behind it, low hills beyond, open grass and trees in front. There is much to take our eye: the stately progress of the ships on the right, the red-tiled roof of the small building to the left and the animated fishwives in their traditional costumes on the strand, looking not quite to scale.

It is Morison himself though who draws our attention, standing just to the right of centre. He holds his top hat in one hand and could almost be gesturing to the viewer. In his other hand he holds a white cloth, a handkerchief and a book. He is formally dressed as we might expect of someone of his status; the white cravat fixed with a pin bright against the black of the rest of his clothing. His open coat reveals the waistcoat and adds a sense of movement to an otherwise static figure; likewise the wispy white hair standing up around his head like a white halo. The face is that of a man nearing the end of a long career in a potentially difficult profession. It appears quite lined and worn but the eyes hold our gaze. It would be difficult to walk straight past.

Although, as his patient, Dadd would have seen Morison in person, the remainder of the scene relies on imagination and secondary sources. Family members provided information and sketches of the area around Newhaven and the fishwives themselves may have been inspired or copied from earlier photographs by Hill and Adamson.1 All the more remarkable then that this portrait should be so unified and so arresting.

[1] The painter David Hill and the engineer Robert Adamson set up Scotland’s first photographic studio in 1843.

 http://www.nationalgalleries.org/object/PG 2623

Art in the Asylum: Upcoming Events

September sees the opening of several events that may be of interest to our readers, some of which include items from the Bethlem Collection. First off, an exhibition opens today at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by the Centre for Global Mental Health: One in Four: Experience and Action. The exhibition is open daily between 10 and 4, and brings together items offering unique perspectives on the experience of living with mental ill-health, as well as the work of the Centre. Free accompanying events include evening film screenings, lectures and discussions, such as the contribution of the Patient Voices Programme to improved mental health care in Manchester on 8 October and the role of service user involvement in research and advocacy on October 10. The exhibition itself runs until 1 January 2014.

Later in the week, Art in the Asylum: Creativity and the Evolution of Psychiatry opens at the Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham. Exploring the role of art in mental health care and treatment from 1800 to the 1970s, the exhibition incorporates art from national and international archives, including the Bethlem collection and the Adamson Collection. The display aims to provide a historical overview of the diagnostic and therapeutic use of patient artwork, as well as its wider recognition through associations with Art Brut and so-called Outsider Art. Free lectures and tours run alongside the exhibition, which is open daily until 3 November. These include an evening talk on the life and legacy of Edward Adamson on 11 September, a lecture by Maureen Park on the nineteenth-century collection put together by W.A.F. Browne at the Crichton Royal Institution on 18 September, and Nicholas Tromans on Richard Dadd on October 16th.

Finally, in October, the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines will host a three-day conference on the history of psychotherapeutics, from moral treatment to psychological therapies. The conference programme is soon to be announced, at www.ucl.ac.uk/cehp/chpd/conference.