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Being at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum


18 Mar 2010

About the Exhibition

This exhibition illustrates aspects of the history of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum (later known as the Seacliff Mental Hospital) using the archives held by Archives New Zealand Dunedin Regional Office.
We hold archives documenting the provision of care for the mentally ill, dating from the 1860s and to the 1970s. They were created by the Dunedin Lunatic Asylum, Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, Seacliff Mental Hospital and Cherry Farm Hospital.
The photographs and images show the buildings and grounds of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum and aspects of the administration, particularly the work of the Medical Superintendent. Examples of case records for selected patients show the legal process for committing a person to the asylum, their medical treatment and discharge, although some patients remained at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum until their death.

The exhibition includes a digitised copy of the published report of the 1891 Committee of Inquiry into Frederic Truby King's management of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. Frederic Truby King was the Medical Superintendent from 1889 to 1921. The Report highlights the reforms Truby King made in the care of the mentally ill.
Frederic Truby King's views and management style are also illustrated using letters from the Medical Superintendent's Outwards Letterbooks.
Additionally, this exhibition may be used as a resource for teachers and Year 13 students studying history, as part of the New Zealand History Curriculum. There are questions to assist in the exploration of the history of the treatment of mental illness.