‘Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum’


A touring exhibition which explores the lives of a group of patients in Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum between 1886 and 1902 will go on display at the University of Dundee on Friday 23 March.

Using information and photographs from their case notes, ‘Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum’ examines the circumstances which led to their committal to the asylum, the dilemmas faced by their families, and the nature of their mental illness.

The exhibition will be on tour at various venues in the coming months, and will be appearing at non-standard exhibition spaces, such as workplaces and community centres.  While some of these venues will not offer public access, the exhibition will be fully open to the public while on display in the Foyer Gallery, Tower Building, University of Dundee, from March to June 2018.

Professor Rab Houston of the University of St Andrews School of History said, “Our understanding of the Victorian lunatic asylum, and our perception of the history of psychiatry, is often fed by myth and fiction. The nineteenth century did indeed see a massive rise in the building of asylums, as institutional care became the dominant means of caring for the insane.

“But what do we know of the lives of those who entered them as patients? How did they experience mental illness? How do their stories help us think about mental health today?

“Looking at examples from the past is a valuable way to consider the social and cultural contexts that create understandings of mental disorders, which were more than just medical conditions. Through the poignant stories of past sufferers, the exhibition aims to engage with contemporary concerns about the experience of mental disorders, past and present, the effect on family and community, and the wider social attitudes associated with mental illness.”

This exhibition is part of a wider project, ‘Promoting Mental Health through the Lessons of History‘, which is based at the University of St Andrews led by Professor Rab Houston, and is a collaboration with University of Dundee Archives Services.

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