Unlocking the Asylum: One Year Update

In 2017 Denbighshire Archives received a £130,000 grant from Wellcome, to fund our two year ‘Unlocking the Asylum’ project. The aim of the project is to catalogue all the records of the North Wales Hospital, list and repackage the later patient case files, and assess the collection for conservation needs.

We are now one year into the project, and are making excellent progress towards its completion in October 2019. In February of this year we announced the launch of a temporary catalogue for the first part of the collection, this is available online via the Denbighshire Archives website and replaces the former paper catalogue. Our Project Conservator Joanna who was with us for three months, undertook conservation survey to identify the condition of the uncatalogued collection and has made recommendations on its conservation and preservation requirements.

Our Project Support Officer Rhian, is continuing to work hard to index the later series of patient files, of which 13,000 out of an estimated 23,000 have already been completed. Work is continuing to catalogue and repackage the remainder of the collection. So far some of the records uncovered amongst the uncatalogued material has included administrative records such as committee reports and minutes, patient records including admission and discharge registers, staff records including staff index cards and job applications, and records relating to the social side of hospital life including recreational games, activity timetables, event programmes and music sheets.

Item 368

A weekly activity timetable from the hospital dating from 1966, showing the range of social and recreational events available for patients and staff.

Over the past twelve months we have hosted two events at Denbighshire Archives. In November 2017 we held our project launch event for Explore Your Archives, and in September 2018 we held an event for Open Doors, both of which featured talks on the hospital, and small exhibitions of records from the collection. We have also attended a number of external events to promote the project and the collection, including the conference of the Society of the Social History of Medicine, the Archives Council Wales Forum, and the ‘Celebrating Flintshire Women Past and Present’ event at Flintshire Record Office.

SSHM Image

The Project Archivist talking to delegates at the Society of the Social of History of Medicine conference in Liverpool.

We have written a number of blog posts on various topics including patient case books, maps and plans, the Lunacy Commission register’s, epilepsy, general paralysis, ECT, and the hospital under the NHS. Please keep checking our blog and Facebook page for new posts and news of upcoming events.

Please note that due to NHS regulations records of patients and staff which contain sensitive personal information are closed for between 75 to 100 years,

Lindsey Sutton

Project Archivist (Unlocking the Asylum)

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