Life in the Asylum – Captured on Paper

Glenside Hospital Museum comes to town bringing a taste of its historic collection of drawings, photographs, and artefacts relating to mental health care in Bristol, with a series of experimental drawing workshops, open to all.

29th May – 8th June 2018   11am-6pm weekdays – 12 – 4pm Sat & Sun

For workshop timetable and booking go to:

City Vestibules (Park Street entrance)  Bristol City Hall, at the front of the building, looking out onto College Green, BS1 5TR

Glenside Hospital Museum’s perceptive documentary drawings by Denis Reed (ARCA. RWA), artist and patient at Bristol Mental Hospital, speak volumes of what life was like in this psychiatric hospital in the 1950s, shortly after the NHS had taken over the management. Each of his beautiful A4 line drawings of patients – sleeping, shaving, bathing, walking, talking – retain a startling power. The Victorians had placed a value on occupation as a treatment and previously patients, wherever possible, would have been given a job to do within the hospital community. This was not considered appropriate for the new establishment and this lack of occupation is illustrated by Reed’s drawings.

On display will be a selection of photographs and artefacts to give further insight into the hospital at that time. Doctors faced with ever increasing pressures to find solutions to mental illness developed many experimental cures, such as leucotomy, ECT and  Insulin Therapy. Although, still relatively little is known about the brain, it is now recognized that many of these treatments, while they may in some part have seemed to help the patient, for the most part were extremely primitive. History however is a powerful reminder that what is considered progress at the time, in hindsight may not be. While less physical intervention is currently used, in the future some of the drugs prescribed today may be considered equally primitive.

To accompany the free exhibition there will be a series of one hour, £5 per person, experimental drawing workshops, no experience necessary and open to all.

Supported by Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, Bristol City Council Imagination Fund and the Association of Independent Museums Pilgrims Trust Fund, the exhibition is designed to broaden the public’s understanding of mental health and inspire the creative process.

Back to news