Local museum appeals for help to be put in Rankin’s picture

Bethlem Royal MuseumA south London museum is appealing for your support in an online poll which could see it working with Rankin, the renowned portrait photographer.

Bethlem Archives and Museum, just the other side of the borough boundary, is the only London museum to make the shortlist of four cultural organisations hoping to work with the photographer during the Museums at Night weekend this May.

To vote for Bethlem Archives and Museum please visit:
www.culture24.org.uk/places-to-go/museums-at-night/art462295-Connect10-Vote-Rankin before January 28.

The hospital was founded in 1247 as the priory of St Mary of Bethlehem, on a site now covered by Liverpool Street station. By the 14th century it was already treating the insane, and the corruption of Bethlehem, to Bethlem, and then to “bedlam” is suggested to be one source of that word.

The hospital moved to its third site in 1815, at St George’s Fields, Southwark, part of which still survives as the Imperial War Museum, and located in what local children still today call “Bedlam Park”.

Bethlem moved to its present site in 1930. The Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill was united with Bethlem Hospital under the new National Health Service in 1948 to form a single postgraduate psychiatric teaching hospital. In 1999 they were formed into the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, which provides mental health services throughout Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon as well as specialist services across the UK.

Bethlem blue plaqueBethlem Archives and Museum is in the midst of a redevelopment and relocation project, which will see larger and more accessible museum opening on the hospital site this autumn. Bethlem Museum of the Mind will celebrate the lives and achievements of those living with mental ill-health and will include a new permanent exhibition, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will see many items from the museum’s collections displayed for the first time.

The new galleries will also draw on the Museum’s internationally renowned art collection, which includes works by Richard Dadd, Louis Wain, Jonathan Martin and William Kurelek, each of whom was a former Bethlem or Maudsley Hospital patient.

If successful in the public vote, the museum would join with Rankin on a project which has its roots in a series of Victorian images in the Museum’s collection. In the mid-19th century, society photographer Henry Hering photographed the faces of scores of Bethlem patients, examining the resulting images in order to detect the patients’ mental health conditions through their facial expressions and features. The Museum holds a strong and renowned collection of these images, showing patients before and after treatment and illustrating neatly the Victorian need for categorisation of patients.

Keeping the Hering collection firmly in mind, the Museum would work with Rankin to create a new permanent collection of portraits. The project would raise awareness of the extent of mental illness, helping to work away at prejudices by showing that it is not always clear from a person’s appearance that they are unwell.

The Museum plans to run a public workshop, during which participants would learn about the history of Bethlem and its collections and be photographed by Rankin. People would also have the opportunity to learn about the skills involved in portrait photography direct from one of the acknowledged masters of the craft.

While often seen as a celebrity photographer, with the Queen, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie and Madonna among countless subjects, Rankin has been involved in a number of charitable projects, aimed at confronting preconceptions. His photos for Nike were part of a global campaign raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and his most recent major exhibition portrayed people with terminal illnesses.

  • Bethlem Archives and Museum is at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3BX. Opening hours are 9.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri. Also open one Saturday each month. Please telephone to check opening times before planning a special visit. Closed on Bank Holidays and other NHS statutory holidays.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Local museum appeals for help to be put in Rankin’s picture

  1. Thanks Inside Croydon for the heads up on this. Would be fab if we could get Rankin to work with Bethlem. Placing my vote now!

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