‘The Archive collection is much prized by the hospital, dating back as it does to the hospital’s foundation. In terms of range and age of records it would appear to be one of only a few collections of its type in this country…‘ Kate Walters, Museums Liaison Officer, AfSM, 1986

This page explores the history of the St Audry’s Hospital collection and where it is now.

St Audry’s Hospital Museum

The original St Audry’s Museum Collection was largely the result of the interest and efforts of a former member of the hospital staff. It was displayed in former dormitories on the top floor of St Audry’s Hospital. The museum closed to visitors at the end of January 1990.

The Association for Suffolk Museums catalogued the collections under its countrywide documentation project in 1984-86, with volunteers continuing to keep this up to date  as interesting items continued to come to light. The hospital’s collection of administrative records, going back to the early 19th century, were moved to the Suffolk Record Office in 1988.  A major part of the collection was transferred to Felixstowe Museum and the remainder went to the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. Some objects also went to the Science Museum, Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals (collection of books) and to the County Fire Service.

You can see the collection at the following places in Suffolk:

The Museum of East Anglian Life

The St Audry’s Room was set up as part of the newly refurbished Abbot’s Hall in 2012 and this enabled the museum to get many objects out of store and on display for the first time.  The room has been set up to look a little like a corner of one of the original wards and mostly focuses on  the early days of the asylum, when Dr Kirkman was in charge, through to the first half of the 20th century.  Items on display include sunhats made and worn by patients when they were working outside,  a smart blazer belonging to one of the members of the St Audry’s cricket team, a slipper bath,  nurse’s uniform  and a hessian shirt of the kind issued to patients who damaged their own clothes.

Felixstowe Museum

The St Audry’s exhibition at Felixstowe Museum dates  from the time St Audry’s closed and keeps faith with the original museum by using some of the same furniture and display cases. Objects on show include a  hospital post box, patients’ artwork, an electroconvulsive therapy machine, tokens paid to patients and a metal cross gravemarker. It also has a large collection of photographs and ephemera such as old programmes for fetes, concerts and parties.

Suffolk Record Office

The St Audry Collection is kept at the Ipswich Record Office and comprises a wide range of printed documents, photographs, staff and parient records, including hand-written case books. Medical protection and privacy legislation restricts public access to a large part of the later material, but people doing family research can request copies of specific patient information.