The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York has been invited by the Wellcome Trust to be part of a large digitisation project providing online access to over 800,000 pages of archival material from UK psychiatric hospitals. The Borthwick's contribution will be the digitising of over 430,000 items comprising the archive of the Retreat in York.
Founded by the Society of Friends in 1796, following the death in the York Asylum of Leeds Quaker, Hannah Mills, the Retreat is historically important for its role in the development of a compassionate approach to mental health care. In addition to administrative papers and patient records, its archives include tracts on the York Asylum controversies, 1813-15, in which revelations of mistreatment sparked national public debate and led to reforms in mental health care practice.
The physical collection is one of the most heavily consulted at the Borthwick, and following digitisation it will be available online through a web interface hosted by the Wellcome Trust.