Bethlem collects, preserves and interprets material relating to mental health.
Founded in 1970 the museum is the public face of the charity Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust. Bringing together the archives of the Bethlem Royal, Maudsley and Warlingham Park hospitals, its aim is to promote knowledge of mental illness and its treatment, while also challenging the associated stigma.
In 2015 the museum moved to a newly refurbished art deco building at the heart of the Bethlem Royal Hospital. The space provided better facilities for storing and presenting its collection, as well as a proper home for the Bethlem Gallery, which was established in 1997 to showcase the work of current or former patients of the local NHS trust. It was reopened by contemporary artist, Grayson Perry, who is a passionate advocate of the museum's work to draw art and mental health together.
Bethlem Museum was a finalist for Museum of the Year 2016. To find out why it made the shortlist, watch our short film:
The collection is an unparalleled resource on the history of mental health, featuring artefacts, ceremonial items, manuscripts and medical equipment dating back as far as 1555. Among the objects on display are metal and textile restraints, patient portraits taken in the 1850s by society photographer Henry Hering – in some cases in pairs, representing their illness and recovery – and the statues Raving and Melancholy Madness by Caius Gabriel Gibber, which originally adorned the hospital at Moorfields.
The art collection is comprised of some 1,000 works, many by former patients such as Jonathan Martin, Richard Dadd and Louis Wain.