Picturing Insanity

Hospital Patient

Hospital Patient

Patients in insane asylums had few rights, and certainly little right to privacy. Public tours of insane asylums were common in the nineteen and early twentieth centuries, and few professionals seemed to find these tours insensitive. Doctors, themselves, often used patient histories in their lectures, though they didn’t usually divulge their patients’ identities.

Patients were often photographed. Some snapshots were taken by visitors to asylums, but others were taken by professional photographers for a variety of reasons (to illustrate newspaper accounts or academic material, for example). It is highly unlikely that these photographs were taken with informed consent by either patients or their families.

Glore Patients Out For a Stroll, 1902, courtesy Glore Psychiatric Museum

Glore Patients Out For a Stroll, 1902, courtesy Glore Psychiatric Museum

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