Our free exhibition 'Moonstruck: 500 years of mental health' opened to the public on Friday 14 June and will run until Spring 2020.

This exhibition explores the changing understanding of mental health over the last 500 years, using our unique collection of illustrations, books and objects.

About the exhibition

This exhibition is not a history of psychiatry. While that profession’s role in the treatment of mental health issues has become increasingly pronounced over the last 150 years or so, this exhibition aims to cover more ground than simply being a study of psychiatry would allow. It stretches back centuries before psychiatry came into existence, looking at how self-medication and folk remedies were used to treat mental illness.

It also tries to look, as far as possible, at the experiences of the patient, not just the practitioner. While the patient’s voice can sometimes be difficult to find – often being unrecorded, ignored or misunderstood, still some information survives in letters and sketches.

Highlights from the exhibition

Many of the items in the exhibition have never been on display to the public before.

These include a selection from the 249 original illustrations of asylum patients which were commissioned by the Scottish physician Alexander Morison to accompany his lectures on mental diseases.

The exhibition also contains sketches by William Blacklock, who was an established artist long before he was committed.

The Crichton asylum in Dumfries, where Blacklock was held, was renowned for its use of art as a form of therapeutics.


The exhibition is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm, from 14 April 2019 until 28 February 2020. No booking is required and entry is free. A series of events on the theme of mental health will be taking place throughout the duration of the exhibition.

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