Posts Tagged 'Confronting the Collections'

Confronting the Collections: Challenging Objects

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.

Click here to take survey

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Confronting the Collections: Images of Real People

As our ongoing Hospital Snapshots series has explored, the new technique of photography was quickly adopted by asylum physicians from the 1850s for a variety of purposes. These included for patient identification, to explore the role of physiognomy (facial shape and expression) in understanding diagnoses of mental illness, and to investigate the role of heredity in its onset. The Hering photographs, discussed in the series, are society-style portraits of the mid nineteenth-century, but the Bethlem collections also contain other, later, types of images: institutional ‘mug-shots’ pasted into casebooks, group photographs in the grounds or images taken for scientific research.

All of these photographs show images of real people, who spent periods of their lives undergoing treatment for mental health care. It is not always possible for us to determine whether or not pictures were taken with consent (although there are certainly recorded instances of people opting out of being photographed). Given these considerations, we would like to ask for your thoughts on the way in which these images might (or should not) be displayed in the new Museum of the Mind.

The link below will take you to a short survey, in which you will be asked to look at three different nineteenth-century photographs of patients at Bethlem and record your thoughts and feelings about them. Your suggestions will help to shape the displays in the museum.

Click here to take survey

Confronting the Collections: Whose Narrative?

As we explored in our former series, Curatorial Conversations, one of the challenges facing a museum of psychiatry is the vast number of potentially conflicting voices that need to be acknowledged in telling the story of mental health history. From service users to psychiatrists, unpaid carers to nursing staff, porters to hospital visitors, there are many potential stories that can shape the format of the new museum.

We are currently looking at how we shape the narrative throughout the museum: whose voices we use, and where; what variety of ideas we can express and how we might do this. Most importantly, we want to hear your voice and contributions in order that the museum meets the needs of all its users.

The link below will take you to a short survey on the use of narrative in the museum, which should take no more than ten minutes. If you would like to be involved in further consultations, you can also sign up for this. Your suggestions will help to ensure the new Museum of the Mind reflects the diversity of its audience.

Click here to take survey

Confronting the Collections: Doors and Windows

As readers of this blog will probably be aware, we at the Archives and Museum are preparing to move in 2014. At present, we are working on designs for the new permanent exhibition, and would like to ask blog readers for feedback on a number of topics. This new series expands on our previous posts around Curatorial Conversations, and each is linked to a short survey. Please do take five minutes to complete each questionnaire, as your answers will be vital in shaping the new Museum of the Mind.

The first topic we want to explore is what doors and windows mean to you. In their simplest architectural form, these items allow a view or movement from one space to another. Both can, however, mean a lot more to us symbolically, depending on such things as the type of door, whether it is open or closed, or its location.

The link below will take you to a short survey, in which you will be asked five questions about doors and windows as symbols. We will be very grateful for your feedback, all of which will be presented to the museum designers. If you don’t have time to complete the questionnaire, please comment directly on the blog.

Click here to take survey