After a week of interesting events I am here to wrap up Diversity week with a final blog post. The work promoting the diversity of our collections goes on all year round, from our records specialists to our outreach and education department. To find out more about this, read my first blog post.
For this post I wanted to highlight the rich sources we hold on the history of mental health, through one particular case – the belongings of Mary Smith. When Mary Smith died in 1810 the Court of Chancery took in her private papers and effects as part of the case. Very little is known about Mary, however it is noted that she once lived in Christ’s Hospital in London, and on the top of the jewellery box there is also the inscription, ‘Re: Mary Smith a lunatic’.
Most significantly, her effects contained a captivating jewellery box full of other items. Despite the lack of other information about Mary the items in the chest provide an insight into her life we would not have otherwise had.
Objects such as these went through the Court of Chancery who were responsible for deciding who should have control of the estate of a person classed as insane. As part of the evidence in these cases exhibits could be presented, such as in the case of Mary Smith.