How to use Museum of the Mind's online historical sources
The Museum of the Mind houses the archive of three Hospitals- Bethlem Royal Hospital, Croydon Mental/Warlingham Park Hospital and The Maudsley Hospital. Provided there are no data protection or conservation issues with the material, all these archives are available to view by appointment at the Museum. Get in touch via the Contact Us page. We will need to know what you want to see, and you can use our catalogue to view a listing of our records.
But there are lots of sources you can access without visiting us! They are across a couple of different spaces and places, so this post is designed to bring them all together.
The majority of our useful genealogy sources have been digitised and indexed on Find My Past. While Find My Past is a subscription based website, if you are able to get to somewhere that has free access (or if you have a subscription yourself) you can see admission records, patient casebooks, and staff records for Bethlem and Warlingham Park yourself. You may also be able to get a free trial by signing up to them for a limited period. We offer free access at the Museum via the NHS wifi. Once you have done this, go to www.findmypast.co.uk and select ‘A-Z’ of record sets. From here, use the free text box to search for ‘Bethlem’- this will bring up two results. The one with the most records (about c.250,000) is the indexed text search, and the one with less records (c.130,000) is the browsing data set. If you are looking for a name, select the indexed set.
I always warn our readers that the casebooks start for most patients in the early 1800s, and are sometimes very brief; its only from the 1850s onwards that they become more standardised and detailed. The language within them is always of the time, and include medical terms and a tone which we would regard as out of date and insensitive.
These records are also really useful for academic history looking at the history of psychiatric treatment. If you select the browsing data set and search through the relevant archival references (there is a list of them below the search page under the heading ‘archival reference’) you can find a complete run of casebooks and admission records up to 1919 for Bethlem and from 1903 to 1914 for Warlingham Park. There is also a run of the Board of Governors of Bridewell and Bethlem Hospitals minutes dating from the 1559 until 1800 (when the patient notes start to be transferred into the admission books and the case books). We know researchers have used these digital volumes to look at how men and women were treated differently by the Hospital, the progress of medical language and trends in diagnosis, but we are sure there are lots of other avenues that can be taken. It’s rare to have such a well-preserved and complete set of patient information from that time.
The Board minutes are also digitised on London Lives and , though are not indexed, on our own catalogue at https://archives.museumofthemi... (which also contains links to London Lives). Similarly, the Bethlem Admission Registers are also digitised on our catalogue from 1683 up to 1902 at https://archives.museumofthemi... . For much of the time covered by the digitised minutes the Board was a large and prestigious London institution. While many patients are mentioned within the pages of the minutes, so are other important people in London, including politicians, landholders and Livery Company members- in fact many of the Governors were Aldermen and Common Councilmen with the City of London Corporation.
We have other digitised sources on our catalogue. All of the Lantern slides of Geoffrey O’Donoghue are digitised at https://archives.museumofthemi... . O’Donoghue was Chaplain at Bethlem, and the first biographer of the Hospital- the images are a combination of Hospital life across his career (1892-1930), his antiquarian interest in the Hospital, and the regular lectures he gave to the patients in the Hospital.
As there are over 700 images and a huge range of subjects, they are probably best keyword searched using ‘CTRL F’ (press both buttons simultaneously on the keyboard to bring up the search box).
In the late 1850s the Hospital arranged for the society photographer Henry Hering to take portraits of some of the patients, and to also take follow-up photographs if they recovered during their time in the Hospital. These photographs can be viewed under our series HPA at https://archives.museumofthemi... together with the information we know about each patient.
There are a couple of other digitised sources on the catalogue, including two early annual reports covering 1824 (BAR-01) and 1841 (BAR-02) at https://archives.museumofthemi... and ESP-02, the sales particulars of the Monks Orchard estate where the Hospital is today https://archives.museumofthemi...
To use any of these images click on the ‘View’ link on the right of the catalogue entry. Once in the viewer you can select a small image or a larger one, except for the Hering photographs which are just limited to the small images.
Our catalogue has capacity for more images to be added, all that’s missing is the (huge amount of) time it would take us to do it! If you feel there is a series that would benefit from being digitised get in touch and we can look into it.
The catalogue has one more feature- the search function doesn’t just search the catalogue, but the entire website, including our blog, which holds literally hundreds of articles on our history and collections https://archives.museumofthemi... are lots of other interesting online resources on the Museum’s main website, some of which are digital versions of our holdings. All of our artworks have been digitised on our website's online Gallery, and nearly all of our artists have an association with one of the Hospitals. The artwork ranges from pieces collected by Dr Hyslop, Superintendent of Bethlem in the late nineteenth century (all under the artist name of ‘Anonymous’ – we don’t know which patients created each artwork), up to more recent work by artists like Elise Warriner.
In our ‘Learning Section’ there are lots of useful aids to help with understanding the history of Bethlem and the other hospitals. In the Explore Bethlem section there are transcribed patient case notes from Bethlem in the late 1800s, and in the ‘This is Your Hospital’ there is some background information on the history of the hospital.
We also have a small collection of films, often kept in the archive in their original form- usually 9mm safety film. Most of these have been digitised and catalogued by London Screen Archive, and can be found either here https://www.londonsscreenarchi... or on our very own Bethlem Museum YouTube channel. These (and the lantern slides mentioned earlier) are impossible to view in their original format, so this digitisation has allowed access to items that would otherwise go unseen.