Letters

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This new work responds to an archive collection of letters written in the 1800s by patients at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, a psychiatric hospital situated in the Morningside area of Edinburgh. Instead of being sent, these letters were collected by doctors at the time and later found enclosed in patient casebooks. The superintendent of the hospital at the time, Dr. Thomas Clouston, was interested in collecting patient letters and drawings which he felt gave an insight into their conditions. This is one example of the level of control patients were under in a very regulated environment. Now that these letters can finally be read, their first-hand immediacy and expressiveness gives us a new, subjective perspective of life inside a Victorian asylum. It becomes apparent through reading the letters that some patients felt a loss of control and confusion at being there, at a time when the Scottish Lunacy Act allowed patients to be certified into the asylum by others, against their will.Through digital layering of archive imagery with photos of figures and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital site today, the works play with the dynamic of conceal/ reveal. They reflect on the concealment of patients inside the asylum and the hiding away of their letters, and along with the accompanying transcriptions, reveal their words and ultimately their voices to an audience today.

 

 

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