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Find out about life was like in the Whittingham Asylum

A special exhibition in Preston will show people what life was like in the Whittingham Asylum.

The ‘Hidden Histories – Alternative Futures’ display is available at the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library from Saturday 13 October to Sunday 25 November.

The exhibition, in partnership with Lancashire Archives, the Harris and Lancashire Museum Service, forms part of a wider two-year arts and heritage project exploring the history and legacy of the asylum. Opening in 1873, the asylum was demolished in 2016.

The exhibition combines personal experiences with social, cultural and historical observations. An aim of the exhibition is to highlight changing attitudes towards mental issues.

Items loaned from Lancashire Archives and the Lancashire Museum Service, including patients’ photographs, reception orders from the early 1900s, keys, a teapot, postcards and badges form part of this free exhibition.

Visual art, music, poetry and film will also be displayed.

Paintings by famous rock musician Kevin Coyne are showcased. Kevin worked at the Whittingham Asylum from 1965 to 1968, as an artist in the Occupational Therapy department. Many of his drawings and paintings in the exhibition are drawn from his personal experiences. Paintings and drawings from all stages of his life are showcased, including rare items that he made while he was working at the hospital.

The link between clothing and the management of women patients in County Lunatic Asylums throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century will also be explored in the exhibition. Clothing items in the ‘Dressed for the Part’ display include crocheted collars that have been specially made to look like the clothes that female patients would have worn.

County Councillor Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “There are many stories about the Whittingham buildings and estate. The environment this created for the patients who lived there, and for the staff who worked there are revealed in the thousands of documents preserved at Lancashire Archives, and through artefacts held by the Lancashire Museum Service. Some of these are on display in the exhibition.

“Art and writing has also been created about these documents and artefacts. It is important to remember the county’s role in building this institution and in providing care for people with mental ill health before the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948.”

The Whittingham Lives arts and heritage two-year project aims to research, explore, celebrate and review the culture and legacy of the asylum, which was open from 1873 to 1995. The event forms part of a series of programmes exploring the 150-year history of the asylum.

Community groups have also joined with the Whittingham Lives Association, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire County Council to creatively record, interpret and celebrate the history of the hospital so that the legacy and heritage of this institution is preserved for future generations.

The project has received nearly £70,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

The exhibition may be available at other museums in the North West after it finishes at the Harris in November.

To get involved with the Whittingham Lives project email contact@whittinghamlives.org or visit www.whittinghamlives.org.uk

More information about the Whittingham Lives project is available by contacting Shelley Carter-Shipway at shelley@whittinghamlives.org.uk or calling 07972 677172.

For more information about Lancashire Archives, visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/archives, telephone 01772 533039 or email record.office@lancashire.gov.uk

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