Preview: Madhouse, My House?

New display at Hackney Museum explores the history of institutionalisation through the lives of two ex-patients

AS recently as the 1970s, people with learning disabilities were forcibly placed in hospitals for ‘idiots’, ‘imbeciles’ and ‘the feeble minded’.

A new exhibition at Hackney Museum explores this deplorable existence through the eyes of two real, historical patients.

Harvey Waterman and Mabel Cooper were residents of St Lawrence’s hospital, in Surrey, until the Mental Deficiency Act was repealed in 1959.

‘Madhouse, My House?’ pieces together their experiences through interactive displays made all the more moving because they were researched and created by members of Access All Areas, a Hackney-based theatre company which works with people with learning disabilities.

Terry, for example, remarked: “Mabel’s birth certificate gives her the label ‘imbecile’... I’ve been given lots of labels because of my condition.”

The exhibition, which runs from 2 February to 13 May, challenges you not to leave without having a few serious thoughts provoked. Entrance is free.