Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Stories of Our Past

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we are very proud to be hosting an event run by the Mental Health Museum this Friday.  We have asked Cara Sutherland, the curator of the MHM what the event is going to be all about...

The Stories of Our Past talk this Friday at 5pm is one not to be missed - why? Because it brings together our past with our present. As part of Mental Health Awareness week 2016, we will take a look at the stories of people who experienced the Wakefield Asylum and how their stories can tell us more about own lives and the society we live in today. 

So here's where I sell the event to you...

I’m going to be honest with you and say that I love my job...a lot. Our collection aims to tell the complex and fascinating story of mental health care in the UK over the last 200 years and to use this story to combat stigma and prejudice surrounding mental health. We see that as our shared responsibility. 

Responsibility is an interesting thing; it can be intimidating at times but ultimately it can be empowering, especially when its shared. At the MHM, we have a duty of care to the objects we have in our collection. We have a duty of care to the memories and lived experiences of people who are still with us, as well as to those who are now part of our history. We share this responsibility with the people we engage.

Letter: This shows the front of a Reception Order which shows the way these documents were folded to create an envelope
Our collection is underpinned by peoples' stories and although our objects can't actually talk, as in a Disney film (much to my sadness), they do speak to us. They tell us of the places and times they were part of, and just as much about the missing stories and hidden histories as they do about the ones we know. 

A perfect example of this is Mary Frances Heaton's samplers. A fascinating jigsaw of symbols, stitched letters and fragments of a broken heart. Her story is there, in the midst of our objects and the archives from her time in the Asylum, but this jigsaw still needs to be pieced together. 
Sampler: A sampler by Mary Frances Heaton's who was a patient at the Wakefield Asylum

Local author David Scrimgeour has been piecing together and meticulously transcribing the stories of patients like Mary over the last few years. His book Proper People has recently been published and is a fascinating insight into the people who are at the heart of the history of mental health care. David's research has unearthed some of the Asylum's hidden histories and has solved some of the MHM's mysteries. David has been part of our wider responsibility to really look at our past to better understand our future. 
David will be sharing some of these stories with you and talking about his experiences of researching the Wakefield Asylum archives. You will hear more about Mary and get to know more about the MHM collection. We would love for you to come along to this FREE talk and share in our responsibility to better understand, protect and engage with our history. 

David Scrimgeour, author of Proper People
Join us Friday 20th 5pm-7pm at Wakefield One. Booking is recommended, but not essential.  To book, call 01924 302700 or email.

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