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Home | Projects | Oral History Project – if these walls could speak

If these walls could speak

There is an urgent need to capture the living memory (first and second-hand knowledge) through the voices of those alive today who have stories and connections to The Crichton. Beginning in November 2019 we plan to start capturing this collective memory through a carefully designed oral history project exploring the impact of psychiatric hospital treatment, how it and opinions have changed over time, building on the heritage and history of The Crichton Estate.

“We will give the people of Dumfries and beyond a platform to voice the memories they have of an institution that was a central part of the lives of so many”.

We believe that the memories of those who worked and were patients in one of Scotland’s largest mental health hospitals in the twentieth century, up until the 1990s collectively form a unique asset to explore. Thousands of doctors, psychologists, nurses, support staff and patients lived and worked together in a community that had originally been self-supporting, with its own farm, kitchen gardens, and workshops.

The Crichton Royal Hospital was the last, and grandest, of Scotland’s Royal asylums, founded in Dumfries in 1838. The legacy both physically in its buildings and gardens that remain today (occupied by over 80 businesses and 4 universities) and the collective memory of stories and myths of the people who were patients, worked and lived on The Crichton Estate coupled with the wider community memory of those who lived outside the walls presents a rare opportunity to explore the role and impact of institutional psychiatric care on both a host community of an ‘asylum’ and the community within the bounds of the hospital itself.

We will engage our community in the history and impact of institutional mental health care, build an understanding of the particular importance in the development of mental health care played by the Royal Crichton Hospital given its early adoption of therapeutic activities including engagements in gardening and the arts.

The recorded material collected will form the base of a new oral history collection and primary source archive for wider dissemination and interpretation. Our intention is to develop an oral history tour of the Estate along with making a series of clips deep linked to the extensive Wellcome Trust digital collection already online, building depth and understanding of the heritage of the estate.

Starting with the appointment of a Project Officer in autumn 2019 the project will begin in late November first through the recruitment of a team of dedicated volunteers to train in oral history collection. 

This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 
 
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