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Academic awarded grant to examine the interior world of historic institutions

Posted on 28/10/2010

Prince Albert’s Model Lodging House

Dr Jane Hamlett, from the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been awarded £229,792 from the Economic and Social Research Council to conduct the first ever comparative historical study of the interiors of residential institutions – including "lunatic asylums", as they were once known, lodging houses and public schools.

Dr Hamlett will explore how these places used interior decoration to construct their institutional identities, and how this influenced the lives of their inmates during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As part of her research, Dr Hamlett will be exploring the Holloway Sanitorium at Virginia Water, which was established by Thomas Holloway, the founder of Royal Holloway in 1879. Dr Hamlett's research tackles issues that are directly relevant to Britain today, with the Government having recently unveiled plans to rebuild the Broadmoor Secure Mental Health Unit in response to appeals to improve the privacy and dignity of its inmates.

The project will also consider lodging houses as institutional spaces, including Prince Albert’s Model Lodging House from 1851. Dr Hamlett explains: “This was one of the earliest ‘model’ lodging houses that were designed to provide working-class families with comfortable accommodation, and some degree of privacy. We’ve been exploring how space was used in these houses, how they were decorated and to what extent their inhabitants felt ‘institutionalised.’ We hope our findings will prove interesting, particularly to those concerned with the design of institutions for the mentally ill.”

Dr Hamlet will be giving a number of public talks and papers, as well as working on an online exhibition and a display for Surrey History Centre.

For more information visit: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/history/research/project_institution.html


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