This week, a special exhibition by artist Jane Fradgley opened at Guy’s Hospital. 'Held' is funded by the Guy's and St Thomas's Charity, and is informed by the historical collection of restraining garments housed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archive & Museum, and investigates a largely unexplored area of mental health history.
During the "non-restraint movement" of the 1840s, the vast majority of asylums in England and Wales abandoned all forms of mechanical restraint. "Strong clothing" was a term used in the late 1800s to describe certain forms of protection or restraint which were reintroduced to asylums, and claimed not to be "strait-waistcoats, handcuffs, or what may be called true instruments of restraint". The terms, descriptions and types of garment used were fraught with meaning for contemporaries, many of whom saw themselves as enlightened humanitarians.
With a background as a fashion designer, and a passionate interest in functional and tailored garments, Fradgley was inspired to delve into the archive after seeing Victorian portrait photographs of patients at Bethlem wearing unusual quilted dresses. By exploring this powerful and poignant subject, the artist’s intention is to open new dialogue and debate around restraint and protection, by setting a historical perspective alongside today’s treatments of chemical intervention and sedation.
You can find the exhibition at Atrium 2 & 3, Guy's Hospital, Ground Floor, Bermondsey Wing, London, SE1 9RT
The exhibition will continue until 8th March 2013.
For more information, please contact Gabrielle Allen, Collection & Exhibitions Manager:
Tel – 020 7188 6307
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Credit: Jane Fradgley