For anyone with an interest in history, whether in terms of local history, the history of science and medicine, or the development of social policies, I would urge you to spend a little time absorbing this fascinating and compelling exhibition at the
When I was invited to the Healing Spaces exhibition, I had no idea that the
Though occupying quite a small space, the exhibition packs in a lot - spanning over 100 years (including not just the establishment of the school but also taking in Victorian child health care provision), with historical medical equipment, an early 20th-century nursing uniform and a log book sitting side-by-side with recently-created art works and a contemporary film. The first installation recreates a Victorian child's hospital bed, complete (surprisingly) with soft toys, flowers and tiny child-size wicker furniture. It is common to think of the Victorian era as an austere one, with the trope of children expected to be seen and not heard, and you would thus expect that a Victorian children's ward might be correspondingly stark - but research for Healing Spaces shows that, much like today, there was a pervading belief in making these spaces as pleasant as possible for junior patients. It was actually after World War II that the focus moved to clinical precision, order and practicality, the intention being to make life as smooth as possible for hospital staff. These fascinating trends are evident from the collections of photographs, as well as the informative plaques which line the museum's walls.
Next to the replica Victorian ward hangs an array of recent artworks produced by pupils of the hospital school in 2018. These vibrant models are the result of the young patients being asked to imagine their ideal hospital room. They are consistently wacky, colourful and spacious: one features rolling hills while another, poignantly, has 'going home' written on top. This juxtaposing of the ancient and modern continues throughout the exhibition so that there's no chronological order, allowing the viewer to take in as much or as little as they can. The collection is further brought to life with interactive features, like recording from the hospital radio where young patients talk about how learning has helped them to manage the difficult emotions surrounding their treatment, and video interviews looking at different aspects of young people's mental health.
Through a balance of focusing on art, archiving and personal experiences, the