A major project to catalogue the records of the former North Wales Hospital in Denbigh has now been completed making the collection more accessible to the wider community.
The two year project, called Unlocking the Asylum, was co-ordinated by Denbighshire County Council’s archive service and funded by a grant of £130,000 by Wellcome (a biomedical research charity) The grant was to support a 2 year project enabling us to employ three project staff to catalogue, conserve, and create an online catalogue for this unique collection.
Last night (Thursday), over 60 people attended a talk and exhibition to discuss some of the main findings and to get a fascinating insight into life at the hospital site. Speakers included Denbighshire archive staff who talked about their role; Professor David Healy who is professor of Psychiatry at Bangor University who talked about using the collection from an academic point of view and how it can be used to compare the past with the present and Gareth Roberts from Denbighshire County Council who spoke about the efforts to protect and preseve the building and the lengthy battle to legally have ownership of the site.
Part of the project was to catalogue a total of 30,000 patient case files which filled 1,320 archive boxes. Patients files include details of admission and discharge dates, conditions suffered, patient number, clinical notes, diagnosis and treatment. Other kinds of documents that have been catalogued include administration documents, correspondence about the closure of the hospital, annual reports, staff records, wage books, training documents and records of discussions with trade unions about industrial action.
Records also reflect the social and recreational life at the hospital, with details of clubs and societies, choirs, sports activities (including football and rugby fixtures). There were also details of an exchange programme between the Denbigh site and hospitals in England. Information included details about trips organised for exchange pupils, including a visit to Snowdonia and to Chester Zoo.
Rhian Evans Project Support Officer from Denbighshire Archives, said: “It’s been a real honour to work on this project.
“The North Wales Hospital was an extremely important part of the local community and our project will provide an invaluable resource to academia whilst making the publicly available material more accessible to the non-academic general user researcher. The collection provides a valuable insight into mental health, into the health profession, the local community, Welsh language and culture and how discussions and treatments around mental health have evolved over the years.
“We are delighted to launch the new online catalogue and our brand new digital resource, which includes resources to help researchers navigate and use the collection”.
To access the website, please go to: archives.denbighshire.gov.uk