Opened in mid-February, the Bethlem Museum of the Mind is the latest stepping stone on the path to removing the stigma that continues to surround mental health.
The museum occupies the old administration building in the grounds of the Bethlem Royal Hospital, the facility that provides mental health services for South London. On entering the first thing that you’ll see are Caius Gabriel Cibber’s two enormous statues, ‘Raving’ and ‘Melancholy Madness’. These used to grace the portico of the second Bethlem Hospital at Moorfields – the Beckenham location is it’s fourth.
The Museum of the Mind is full of informative and often touching displays, including current and historical accounts by patients about their experiences and examples of the work of patients as part of the hospital’s art therapy programmes.
Visitors will also find examples of the treatment regimes and equipment that have been used at the hospital since it’s founding in the 1600s, from toxic chemicals to the powerful machines that are used for Electroconvulsive Treatments (ECT) which, until as late as 2009, could be used on people without their explicit consent…
Sharing the space with the Museum of the Mind is the Bethlem Gallery, which occupies a large room on the upper floor. This space is designed to show rotating art exhibitions – the current exhibition is the first major retrospective of the paintings of artist and one-time resident Bryan Charnley, ‘the art of schizophrenia’.
I really can’t recommend it highly enough – visiting the Museum of the Mind is a very powerful experience indeed. Opening hours are a little odd, so you’ll have to plan rather carefully – it’s only open to the public from Wednesday to Friday and the first and last Saturday of the month.