Posts Tagged 'LSHTM'

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.

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Not Just for the Record: Enlivening Archives

A recent workshop at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explored the way in which historians and researchers use archives. While we might tend to view archives as providing “evidence”, there are many questions we should ask ourselves about their very existence. How has an archive been put together? Who has decided what to keep and what to discard over the years? Political, organisational and individual decisions might all contribute to the formation of an archive. Meanwhile, the historian is also necessarily selective, choosing which parts of an archive – or, indeed, which archive at all – to use to make his or her argument.

Piecing together a path through an archive can be a challenge for any researcher. Material may be entirely un-catalogued: Georgina Brewis and Anjelica Finnegan spoke about their use of documents from voluntary archives, crammed into un-labelled cardboard boxes. Thanks to their efforts, the material is now catalogued, and you can find out more about the archives of voluntary organisations, and listen to a podcast of their talk, on the website of the Voluntary Action History Society. In the archives of small organisations, other researchers had found that material was mis-filed, while Ross Macfarlane of the Wellcome Library commented on the opportunities for readers to find new information not listed on the catalogue even in a large organisation like the Wellcome Library, where letters or other material might be found pasted into books (as in our earlier blog post on Theo Hyslop’s Mental Physiology). Another useful resource Ross drew attention to was the Medical Archives and Manuscripts Survey, undertaken by the Library in the 1990s, in which over 100 archives in Greater London were surveyed to highlight items of medical interest.

Speakers also looked at the variety of ways in which archives might be interpreted.   The archives discussed varied considerably, although two presentations concentrated on archives and mental health. Paul Sherreard from the London Metropolitan Archives spoke about activities at the London Metropolitan Archives focusing on the Normansfield Hospital Collection. These activities centred around the newly-conserved archives of Normansfield, founded in 1868 by Dr John Langdon Down as a private institution for people with learning disabilities. The former hospital now houses the offices of the Down’s Syndrome Association, and a new Museum of Learning Disability, which will open regularly to the public from January 2012.