The UK’s Wellcome Library has announced a new initiative in its ongoing program of medical archive digitisation, in the shape of a partnership with several UK regional archives and hospitals to digitise and disseminate their mental health records. According to the announcement, “over 800,000 pages of archival material from psychiatric hospitals in the UK from the 18th to the 20th centuries will be digitised and made freely available online as part of the Wellcome Library’s ambitious digitisation programme.” The Wellcome Library will fully fund the entire project.

As well as the specifics of the evolution of mental health treatment, the digitised materials will also cover episodes of more general interest, such as the York Asylum controversies of 1813-15, and hospital visits by the Quaker social reformer Elizabeth Fry and Charles Dickens. Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, said: “This partnership will bring some rare and important historical material from a fascinating period of medical history into an open and free online resource. Broadening access to such collections is at the heart of the Wellcome Library’s digitisation project and we are delighted that others are joining with us to make this possible.”

The Wellcome Library is part of the Wellcome Trust, frequently active of late on behalf of open access in scientific publishing. It aims to digitise and put online for open access up to 50 million pages of historic medical books, archives, manuscripts and journals by 2020.


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