The Collections of Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Bethlem Museum of the Mind holds the historic collections of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and its predecessor organisations. The aim of the Museum is to explore issues in the treatment of mental health, celebrate the achievements of people with mental health issues and to reduce the stigma around mental health.
The Museum holds and provides access to the collections of three hospitals- Bethlem Royal, the Maudsley and Warlingham Park Hospitals. These collections consist of archives, artworks and objects drawn from the rich and varied histories of each institution, and which reflect a range of viewpoints and experience of people who received treatment, worked in and visited these hospitals.
Bethlem Royal Hospital is the oldest specialist psychiatric hospital in the UK, and possibly the world. The archives go back to the mid-1500s and cover the history of the Hospital as it moved across four different sites in London. The Museum is based today in the fourth site, located in Monks Orchard in Beckenham on the outskirts of London. We have a learning resource based on the Victorian Hospital you can access here. We have recently run a project researching and responding to some of the lives of people receiving treatment in the Hospital in the late 1800s called Change Minds, and you can see the research and the artistic responses to those lives here.
The Maudsley Hospital opened to the general public in 1923 as a revolutionary acute mental hospital, seeking to provide swift, effective and, if possible, non-residential treatment. Self consciously modern, it sought to be at the forefront of advances in psychiatric thought, medical practice and training for its staff. It united with Bethlem in 1948 to come into the new National Health Service.
Warlingham Park was the Borough Asylum for Croydon, providing residential mental health treatment for up to a thousand people at its largest size. While very much a ‘traditional’ asylum, Warlingham Park also sought to innovate in its practice. It was one of the first asylums to unlock its gates, and it was one of the first hospitals in the 1960s to work with Alcoholics Anonymous in tackling addiction. There’s a learning resource featuring different voices from the Hospital available to look at here, or you can watch the Hospital’s own promotional film ‘This is Your Hospital’.
The Archive catalogue covers our holdings, and is accessible here. Many of our patient records, including our casebooks and admission registers up to 1918 are fully digitised and searchable on Find My Past (instructions in the links) or via British History Online, though these are subscription based services. The early Court Minute Books of the Governors of Bridewell and Bethlem are digitised on our archive catalogue, as are the early twentieth century lantern slides of Geoffrey O’Donoghue, the Chaplain and the first historian of Bethlem Royal Hospital.
The art collection is a rich and varied resource, and you can view high quality images arranged by artist name on our Gallery page here. Our artists range from well-known Bethlem patients like Richard Dadd and Louis Wain to McGlashan, the otherwise unknown creator of the Little Traveller. Some of the collection was by people who were treated in the hospitals, some was collected by doctors looking at the links between mental health and art , and with our modern work the Museum has well-established and active links with artists like Elise Warriner Pacquette and Steph Bates. However the work came to us, we seek to display it sensitively and with an acknowledgment of the weight that it carries.
Our object collection does not have a digital catalogue yet, but we hold a wide variety of items that reflect the material culture of the hospitals, including clothes, medical paraphernalia and items used by patients during their everyday life.
The Museum is open 9.30am to 5.00pm Wednesdays to Saturdays, and you can see how to get to us here. Access to the archives and any art or objects is by appointment with our specialist staff, so please get in touch with us using the ‘Contact us’ options.