Wellcome to Het Dolhuys

28 August 2012

This week, Visitor Services Assistant Natalie Coe will be visiting the Het Dolhuys museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Here, she explains why.

Het Dolhuys, or Doll’s House museum is the Netherlands’ national museum of psychiatry and used to be a hospital for plague victims and people considered to be lepers. It is also the initiator behind the Madness and the Arts festival, which explores the interaction between the two. With themes like that, it was only a matter of time before Wellcome Collection introduced itself. Sure enough, works from Het Dolhuys’ current exhibition of Outsider art from Japan will be coming to Wellcome Collection next year and I have been given the opportunity to go and investigate on behalf of the Visitor Services team.

Outsider art is generally taken to mean art by those who have not had formal training and who are ‘outsiders’ in other ways, for example people who have mental health problems or learning difficulties. This is clearly problematic, especially as there are well-known artists who have not had any training but are not considered outsider artists. Equally there are artists who have experience of mental health problems that wouldn’t feature in an outsider art exhibition.

I am therefore looking forward to seeing how the Het Dolhuys has presented Japanese outsider art. I also hope that exploring the exhibition in a different museum and country will better prepare us for opening up discussions with visitors at Wellcome Collection.

I plan to share my findings as I go along so will tweet live updates to my colleagues while I’m there, and write mini blogs at the end of each day, both of which people will be able to respond to. Hopefully this will offer a fresher perspective than the stale and over thought account that might emerge if left until back on British soil.

You can follow the trip too — on twitter I’m @chat2nat300 and my blog is  at nataliefrancescoe.wordpress.com, which will also feature the twitter updates. Feel free to respond with any thoughts or questions.  And watch this space for what looks set to be another thought-provoking exhibition at Wellcome Collection.

Natalie Coe is a Visitor Services Assistant at Wellcome Collection.