Friday 1 July 2016

Mental Health Museum, Wakefield - New Exhibitions

Delighted to have been invited to yesterday evening's preview of two new exhibitions displayed at the Mental Health Museum, Fieldhead, Wakefield.

All Our Stories is the work of 2nd year history students from the University of Huddersfield who have created ‘story guides’ for the museum’s displays  - real people’s stories that help to tell the complex history of mental healthcare in the UK from the 19th century through to today.

Do Eagles Paint? scratches the surface of the complex debates about intelligence and ability testing. Using unique and intriguing objects associated with these tests, the exhibition aims to question their fairness, cultural bias, context, effectiveness and consequences.

Congratulations to curator Cara Sutherland and her volunteers including Alison Moreton who was largely responsible for Do Eagles Paint.

One eagle who certainly doesn't paint is Elvis, the museum's nickname for the polished wooden eagle lectern carved according to the museum caption by an "unknown" Asylum patient in 1869-70. It was used from then until the closure of St Faith's chapel in the grounds of the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

Elvis the eagle lectern. Author's own collection.

Those of you who have read my book Proper People will know by now that the craftsman behind Elvis is no longer an "unknown" patient. More about Lachlan McKenzie and Elvis in a later post.