The Adamson Collection

The Adamson Collection is the largest collection of art made in asylums in the world. A large portion of it is kept at the Wellcome Collection in London, where it will be cataloged and digitized. I have the honor of researching the collection from an artist's perspective. This allows me access to see some of the amazing paintings first hand.

Martha Smith 'My Head is Going Round and Round'
The works are incredibly fragile and must be handled with extreme care. There were made on cheap paper with poster paints between 1940s and 1980s. Today they are conserved in a temperature controlled archive at the Wellcome Library, but previously have been kept in Lambeth Hospital in a shower room, stacked up. Their journey has been a long one, and many works have been lost or destroyed along the way. Originally viewed as medical documents they have now made the transition to 'art' and have been exhibited internationally. 

Rolanda Polonska, untitled sketch 

Much of the collection is a mystery - little or nothing is known about the majority of artists. The medical records at Netherne were all destroyed when the hospital closed. Where the artist's identity is known, there are discussions around privacy, and whether the artist should remain anonymous.

Unknown Artist 'Depersonalisation'

I am drawn to the collection because I have spent most of my creative time in art therapy studios. I identify strongly with Adamson's belief in the power of art to enable the patient to help themselves through their illness. I plan to research art therapists and art studio assistants working at Bethlem Hospitals today to explore how art therapy has changed (or not) since Adamson. Any exciting journey lies ahead...