Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum is another strand in our Promoting Mental Health through the Lessons of History Project. Like the podcast series, the exhibition aims to engage with contemporary concerns among diverse audiences about the experience of mental disorders, the effect of mental illness on family and community, and the possibilities for care and cure.
The exhibition looks at the lives of nine patients admitted to Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum at the turn of the twentieth century, setting their experiences against the context of Dundee as they would have known it. Using information and photographs from their case notes, the exhibition examines the circumstances which led to their committal to the asylum, the dilemmas faced by their families, and the nature of their mental illness.
Looking at examples from the past is a valuable way to consider the social and cultural contexts that create understandings of mental disorders. Through the poignant stories of past sufferers, the exhibition aims to engage with contemporary concerns about the experience of mental disorders, past and present, the effect on family and community, and the wider social attitudes associated with mental illness. The exhibition is currently on display in the Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee.
During the month of May, however, the exhibition will also be on display in two Scottish prisons: Low Moss and Barlinnie. Low Moss is a newly built prison in north Glasgow and has about 750 adult male inmates, serving either short or long term sentences. Barlinnie is the largest prison in Scotland holding about 1500 prisoners. It has been possible to mount the exhibition in these restricted spaces thanks to the cooperation of Fife College, which in 2017 was awarded the contract to provide learning and skills to all 13 Scottish Prison Service establishments, giving them the opportunity to unlock prisoners’ potential and transform their lives. During May they have an initiative running in west central Scotland, to increase awareness of mental health issues, building confidence and resilience. Rab will deliver talks at both prisons, about the exhibition and about the ‘Promoting mental health through the lessons of history’.
The exhibitions at Low Moss and Barlinne will only be available for prisoners and staff and not open to the public, but you can see the exhibition at the University of Dundee until June 9. In addition, Rab is in the process of arranging other venues for the exhibition and would be happy to discuss the possibilities with potential hosts. Further information about hosting the exhibition is available on the Face to Face website.