The Digitisation of Mental Healthcare Archives project began in August 2014 and was a collaborative mass digitisation project between the Photographic Unit, Dumfries and Galloway Council and the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archive, thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust. The project’s aim was to digitise over 800, 000 images documenting the history of psychiatric care in the United Kingdom and bring together archival material from a number of institutions as part of a digital collection. The Photographic Unit’s brief was to contribute 352, 000 images to this project from material taken from the Gartnavel Royal Hospital (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archive) and Crichton Royal Hospital (Dumfries and Galloway Council). The majority of material was being digitised for the first time and would provide researchers a unique insight into Scotland’s asylums and the lives of the patients and staff that lived within the grounds.
Fast forward to April 2017 and the project has been completed, with over 370, 000 images captured from across the Gartnavel and Crichton collections. Researchers can now access comprehensive digitised sets of patient records (up to 1914) including registers and casebooks from both hospitals. There are also little extras such as the pioneering collection of patient produced artworks from the Crichton, believed to be the first examples of art therapy used in psychiatric care.
There were also some surprises hidden amongst the records. Gartnavel Royal contains a rich selection of Gardeners’ Reports from the early twentieth century. They are a fascinating insight into the farm within Gartnavel’s grounds as well as a peek at what the weather was like over a hundred years ago! The Head Gardener would have lived on site along with his family which is evident from some of the child’s drawings discovered whilst digitising the material:
After many trips up and down the M74 to and from Dumfries (and many shorter trips to the Mitchell Library where the Gartnavel collection is housed), it is now time to close the door on the Wellcome project suite and bid a final farewell to the Digitisation of Mental Healthcare Records project. The Photographic Unit continues to offer its digitisation service within the University Library and external customers and we hope it will not be long before the project suite is up and running once again.
The digitised collections from Gartnavel Royal Hospital and Crichton Royal Hospital, as well as the Retreat in York and St Luke’s Hospital in London and many other collections, can be browsed via the Wellcome website by clicking here.
Categories: Archives and Special Collections