Unlocking the Asylum: Denbighshire Archives receives Wellcome Funding

Denbighshire Archive Service has recently been awarded £130,000 by Wellcome to catalogue and preserve historic hospital records relating to the former North Wales Hospital.

The Research Resources Award will fund the cataloguing of the largest hospital collection held at Denbighshire Archives; the records of The North Wales Hospital.

The North Wales Hospital, Denbigh, was the main institution in North Wales for the care of the mentally ill. The institution opened in October 1848 serving the whole of North Wales and the borders.  A century later, its patients numbered in excess of 1,500.  It was by far the biggest employer in the area and activities recorded in its voluminous archives reflect its importance in the social and economic life of the area, with its farm, sporting activities, community events and cultural festivals. 

The hospital finally closed its doors in 1995.  The resulting archive is unique in its completeness including: patient records; annual reports and committee minutes; financial records; plans; and staff records. Although most of the collection is closed to researchers to adhere to data protection legislation and respect patient confidentiality it is important the collection is preserved to enable access to those interested in tracing developments in treatments of mental health patients in the future.

Nicola Samuel, Archivist at Denbighshire Archives, explains: “The funding will enable us to employ three project staff to catalogue, conserve, and create an online catalogue for this unique collection. The collection will also be assessed for potential future digitisation projects.”

“We would like to make this incredible and unique collection more accessible not only to academics, but as a fascinating resource all our users could benefit from.”

Wellcome is an independent global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. Their Research Resources Awards aid research by supporting projects to catalogue and preserve significant primary source collections in libraries and archives across the UK and Ireland.

Posted on Wednesday 28th June 2017