On Wednesday 23rd January, Year 13 psychology students went to the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, located in the grounds of the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Beckenham. The hospital's history goes back to the 13th century when the priory of St Mary of Bethlehem was founded in Bishopsgate to provide shelter for the mentally ill. In 1675 it moved to Moorfields and then to the building that now houses the Imperial War Museum in South London. In 1930 it moved to its present site, an area which was then farmland and orchards. The hospital museum was opened in 2015 and houses a collection of art, artefacts and archives.
Upon entering the museum, we saw two statues - Madness and Melancholy - which were originally mounted on either side of the gateway to the Moorfields hospital. These were the only two recognised mental illnesses when the statues were made.
The museum’s permanent exhibition provides valuable information on the history of Bethlem and psychiatry. It explores themes such as diagnosis and labelling, the use of chemical and physical restraints, therapies and recovery. There are also temporary exhibitions showcasing art produced by service users past and present. The wonderful artworks on display helped us recognise the important role art can play for many living with mental health issues.
Christina, Year 13