Art of the Insane: Historic Archives from British Mental Institutions Go Online

retreat

George Sidebottom suffered from ‘moral and religious delusions’. He was a resident at the center from 1894 until 1912

The paintings, poetry and accounts of cricket matches from British psychiatric patients are among some 800,000 historic documents about to go online as part of a project to digitize mental health records from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

“This partnership will bring some rare and important historical material from a fascinating period of medical history into an open and free online resource.”

— Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library has been digitizing thousands of documents related to the United Kingdom’s medical history. The organization announced last week that it is partnering with several archives to make a searchable database of texts and images from the York Retreat, St. Luke’s Hospital Woodside, Crichton Royal Hospital, Gartnavel Royal Hospital and Camberwell House Asylum.

[Also see “Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration” at the Wellcome Library]

“This partnership will bring some rare and important historical material from a fascinating period of medical history into an open and free online resource,” Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library, said in a statement. “Broadening access to such collections is at the heart of the Wellcome Library’s digitization project, and we are delighted that others are joining with us to make this possible.”

The trove will focus on records dating from the 19th century and the 20th centuries, tracking the movement away from institutional care, according to the Wellcome Library. Read the rest of this entry »