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Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond

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Photograph of visitors exploring the exhibition, Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond exhibition at Wellcome Collection.
Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond exhibition, Michael Bowles. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Asylums have largely been consigned to history, but mental illness is more prevalent than ever, as our culture teems with therapeutic possibilities: from prescription medications and clinical treatment to complementary medicines, online support, and spiritual and creative practices.

Against such a background, this exhibition interrogated the original ideal that the asylum represented – as a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asked whether and how this ideal could be reclaimed. Taking Bethlem Royal Hospital as its starting point, the exhibition juxtaposed historical material and medical records with individual testimonies and artworks.