Collections from the Asylum

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Social history museums strive to present exhibitions that will connect to their local audience and provoke conversation as well as provide information. The aim of this article is to describe an exhibition about a decommissioned former mental hospital that is still significant for many in the local community. The exhibition consisted of various “collections” of objects and artworks assembled by the researchers in collaboration with museum staff, along with stories collected during our research into the asylum. Some “collections” included historical images and stories from the past alongside others of creative work and technology responding to the present. Community members were keenly interested in the exhibition, but the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent border closures in Australia meant that visitors needed to attend online presentations and virtual tours rather than see the exhibits in person. The use of digital presentations along with physical artefacts brought about a new way of thinking about presenting social history to future audiences.