Museum of the Mind Field Trip
On the 26th of February a group of first year psychology students went on a day trip to Bethlem Museum of the Mind. The museum is attached to Bethlem Royal Hospital which continues to provide in-patient care as part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to the present day. The hospital was founded in 1247 making it the first institution in the UK to specialise in the care of the mentally ill. With almost 800 years of history, this gave students a unique opportunity to gain insight into how the beliefs and treatment of mental health has evolved from the 13th to the 21st century.
On arrival at the museum students attended the inside psychology workshop, this detailed the history of the hospital how it was initially funded by a combination benefactors and mental health visitors who made donations to tour the hospital to view patients with mental disorders as a day outing. In the modern era of course, these practices have ceased, and the hospital is now government funded, though on occasion some donations are still made.
Following lunch at the museum the second part of the tour focused on a discussion of a painting by William Kurelek’s “The Maze”. Painted in 1953, when he was 26 and a patient at Bethlem’s sister hospital The Maudsley. The painting contains scenes from his past and present life forming a maze in which he is trapped in. Students discussed in groups what different sections of the painting represented and if they felt Kurelek eventually overcame his problems to lead a full life. Given the extent of his problems opinions on this were divided, however happily our guide informed us he made a complete recovery and in later years completed another painting “After the Maze” showing a much happier view of the world and his life.
Students then had the opportunity to visit the museum and the art gallery, this was followed by an active question and answer session, before returning to the college in the late afternoon.
One student, Camila Coulet, said, “We walked around the museum and had the opportunity too see patients’ art works which gave us the perspective of a patient. Visiting the museum was very interesting and educational. The museum is quite interactive and packed with incredible art created by people with mental health problems.”