Face to Face - Stories from the Asylum

An exploration of patients' lives through photographs and histories

Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee

23 March - 9 June 2018

Mon-Fri 09.30-19.00 Sat 13.00-17.00

Robert Taylor, patient at Royal Dundee Lunatic AsylumOur 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?

Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum is an exhibition exploring the lives of a small group of patients admitted to Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum between 1886 and 1902. Using information and photographs from their case notes, the exhibition examines the circumstances which led to their committal to the asylum, the dilemmas faced by their families, and the nature of their mental illness.

Looking at examples from the past is a valuable way to consider the social and cultural contexts that create understandings of mental disorders. 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 the 'Promoting Mental Health through the Lessons of History' project, based at the University of St Andrews, and is a collaboration with University of Dundee Archive Services. The exhibition has been curated by PhD student Morag Allan Campbell.

Special Events


Tues 10 April, 5.30pm

Baxter 1.36, Tower Building, University of Dundee

A Meeting of Minds - Mental Health Past & Present

How can looking at examples from the past help us to understand mental health issues today? Historians and health professionals meet to explore the lessons we can learn from looking at psychiatry's history.

Speakers include Professor Rab Houston (Historian, University of St Andrews), Morag Allan Campbell (PhD student and curator of the exhibition), Dr Malcolm Kinnear (Psychiatrist, NHS Tayside), Jacqueline Eccles (Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, University of Dundee) and Caroline Brown (Archivist, University of Dundee).

Free but places should be booked via Eventbrite.

Sat 26 May, 2pm

Meet in Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee

Out of our Minds

A creative life writing workshop exploring memory and contemporary perspectives on mental health, led by award-winning teacher of memoir and creative non-fiction, Josie Jules Andrews (School of Humanities, University of Dundee).

Free but places are limited and must be booked in advance on Eventbrite.

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