Getting to Know... Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Find out more about the five Museum of the Year finalists with our Q&As. This time Bethlem Museum of the Mind talks blogs, dogs and art deco curves.
Describe yourself in three words: Welcoming, unexpected, creative.
What’s new with you? I’ve moved house! My original home was falling to pieces and overcrowded, so it’s great to be in a lovely new house-share with the Bethlem Gallery.
What is your most treasured possession? A pair of statues known as Raving and Melancholy Madness. They were carved by Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1676 to sit on the gateposts of Robert Hooke’s New Bedlam and were famous London landmarks, referenced by Hogarth, Keats and many others.
Who’s been your most famous visitor? I’ve spotted a number of famous actors, musicians and comedians coming through my doors, but it has to be artist Grayson Perry – he visited last year and came back to formally open my new home.
Is there a museum/gallery pet? I don’t think our conservator would approve of a museum pet, but we get regular visits from the therapy dog who works at Bethlem Royal Hospital.
I shouldn't leave without experiencing... The Maze by William Kurelek – an iconic 1950s painting which communicates the artist’s feelings about his life. There is something in it which resonates with people.
What’s been your biggest success? Helping to successfully challenge people’s misconceptions around mental illness. I sit at the heart of a working NHS psychiatric hospital and it cheers me up no end that the majority of my visitors have no idea who is a service user, who is part of the medical team and who has just walked in off the street. It’s a far cry from the stereotypes of straitjackets and men in white coats.
You have a museum crush on... The Tincture of Museum blog – it helps me to keep up with my fellow museums and what they are up to.
You’re most happy when… My gallery spaces are full of people making connections and learning new things.
What do you most like about your appearance? My art deco curves – especially around my staircase.
And dislike? My rear end. It takes a lot of equipment to keep the collections within the optimum environmental conditions – it’s not pretty stuff…
This year you’re excited about... The restoration of the hospital’s historic boardroom, which currently sits hidden away behind locked doors. The builders have almost finished their work and the conservation team are just getting started. I can’t wait for people to see it.
If you were named Museum of the Year you would... Smile, cheer, and plan some amazing projects!
Visit Bethlem Museum of the Mind's Museum of the Year page.