University of Stirling Art Collection

Staring at the Ceiling Looking at the Stars: The Human Geography of Stirling District Asylum

‘Staring at the Ceiling looking at the Stars’ has been created by artist Sharon Quigley working in collaboration with a group of inpatients and staff at Bellsdyke Hospital in Stenhousemuir.

‘The history of psychiatry used to be told from the perspective of clinicians and asylum managers. Nowadays social historians are increasingly recognising that we also need to attend to the voice of the patient in order to obtain a fuller and more balanced picture of psychiatry’s past.

 This project, by the artist Sharon Quigley in collaboration with patients and staff of Bellsdyke Hospital, shines a welcome light on the patient world and demonstrates how an artistic perspective can bring new insights into this world. It also shows how engaging with historical documents in novel, imaginative ways can bring the experience of patients in the Stirling District Asylum, over a hundred years ago, to life.’

Dr Allan Beveridge, Consultant Psychiatrist

Over the past year the group has delved into the case notes, patients’ letters and admission ledgers of the Stirling District Asylum Archive; to explore the identities of asylum patients from 1906-14 and to create a new ‘archive’ in which the patient’s voice is properly heard and their own experience is valued in the way we would hope and expect today.

By charting and re-telling the stories of some of the people admitted to the asylum and by re-exploring the asylum’s surroundings, this exhibition of sound recordings and printed artworks is the result of the group’s discussions, deliberations and drawings, some of which relate to participants’ personal memories.

‘Staring at the Ceiling, Looking at the Stars’ will be on display at the University of Stirling’s Pathfoot Building from 23 January to 27 May, 2016.