Adamson Collection Trust

The Adamson Collection Trust

Aim:  Promoting the role of arts in psychological recovery for those with lived experience.

i.  Preserving the physical integrity of the Adamson Collection and associated archives;
ii. Re-visiting the legacy of the pioneer of British art therapy, the artist Edward Adamson.

Funding sources: Adamson Collection Trust (ACT), Wellcome, Maudsley Charity.

Delivery dates: Jan 2010 – Dec 2015.

Locations: inner-city mental health unit, Lambeth Hospital, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust;  major cultural institution, Wellcome Library;  art galleries, mental health and academic settings, the internet.

Description of the arts activity

i. Curatorial:  Locating and securing the Adamson Collection, and archive material.  Edward Adamson (1911-1996) pioneered the use of visual art for psychological recovery at Netherne long-stay mental hospital, 1946-1981. By 2010, the Collection of 5500 paintings, drawings and three-dimensional objects, was stored in working areas of Lambeth Hospital, deteriorating and at risk; Adamson’s and ACT’s archives, disorganised and located around the country.

ii. Conceptual: Re-examining Adamson’s – and his collaborator, John Timlin (b. 1930) - pioneering work, all but forgotten; and the Collection, unseen, and viewed only as an art therapy archive.

iii. Participatory: Engaging a new generation of academics, curators, artists, those with lived experience, students,  and the wider public: by both securing the Collection,  and by developing and disseminating a contemporary narrative about Adamson’s work and the Collection.

Details of the project participants

i. Those with lived experience, academics, curators, artists, students, policy-makers.

ii. Wider public: “Adamson…saw the socio-cultural intervention of showing these people’s works to the public who had excluded them - and showing it as an important contribution to their culture - as a way to change public opinion” (O’Flynn, 2011, Raw Vision 72)

Project management

Management: ACT Board: Charity Commission charity no: 275834.
Audited accounts submitted annually.


The principal ethical issues are around ownership, capacity, consent, and confidentiality when exhibiting artwork by and naming deceased long-term mental hospital patients. These are issues for any collection of Asylum Art.  

We consulted with other collections, and Jones et al, Framing Marginalised Art, 2010. ACT had a previous legal decision that the objects are ‘abandoned chattels’; during the project, further advice they are ‘copyright orphans’.  We developed the position we should show work and name the creators -  and discussed this with audiences whenever disseminating the project.  

Our position is publicly available at our Wellcome Library webpages: ‘Beyond art therapy’,

Evaluation methods and findings

i. Curatorial activities:
Since 2013, Wellcome Library holds the paintings and drawings as ‘Adamson Collection / Wellcome Library’:

The Edward Adamson Archive at the Wellcome Library is catalogued:

ACT still holds the three-dimensional objects and these are now properly stored at Lambeth Hospital, with a selection on display.

ii. Conceptual activities:

An emerging contemporary reframing of Adamson’s work and the Collection first published in 2011 in the international outsider art journal, Raw Vision, (O’Flynn, Raw Vision 72) and first presented in 2013 at the seminar, ‘Outsider Art Under Analysis’, at the Wellcome Trust, during ‘Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan’. These ideas have been disseminated at over 30 seminars, talks and on film since by David O’Flynn.

At its centre is the notion of a ‘multi dimensional gaze’ of the Collection, that the objects, created for therapy, are now both artefacts of mental health and art therapy history, and also art. Particularly the cultural re-positioning of the Collection towards the territory of outsider art has been a primary driver of the rediscovery of Adamson’s work, and of the Collection as one of the U.K.’s important collections of asylum art.

iii. Participatory activities:

Selection of multiple outputs are:

a. Wikipedia page: Core research, started in 2011, has been made publicly available since February 2011 at There have been over 15,000 hits.

b. Articles: O’Flynn has published 2 articles in Raw Vision: 'Art as Healing: Edward Adamson' (RV72, 2011, p46-53) and ‘Almost Certainly, the Catalogue Rasionné of the Creator(s?) Known as JJ Beegan’ (RV88, 2015, p22-29). He has an article in press, ‘Object as Therapy’, in the feminist journal, Lady Beard. Anna Ostrowska published ‘The Adamson Collection: illustrations of mental illness or a testament to spontaneous artistic expression? in Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine, 2016:

c.  Edward Adamson Festival 2014 at the Long Gallery and ORTUS, Maudsley Hospital,  and Bethlem Gallery and Bethlem Museum, attracted an audience of those with lived experience and from the outsider art world,  academics, and mental health professionals.  The opening night film, ‘A Gaze at the Adamson Collection’ -  and Andrew Locke’s closing night film (a film-maker living with psychosis), ‘Insulin Coma Dreams’ (and his film of the multidisciplinary panel discussing Adamson’s legacy) are at Edward Adamson YouTube channel:

Participants with lived experience from the local, Brixton-located, urban music project – Raw Sounds – were inspired after visiting the Long Gallery Adamson exhibition, to create new material, performed at the closing event.

d. ‘Abandoned Goods’, 2014. A film, directed by Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson, made during 2013/14, includes the Collection’s transfer to the Wellcome, exploring the notion of the transformation of objects’ by their relocation to cultural institutions.  The film has been shown in film festivals, awarded the Golden Leopard at its first screaming at the Locarno Film Festival 2014, and screened at Sundance 2015. ‘Abandoned Goods’ is featuring at ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ at the Wellcome Collection, September 2016.

e. Exhibitions: In 2013 the Collection was first exhibited again at ‘Art in the Asylum’, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, and ’Raw Vision: 25 ans d’Art Brut’, Halle St Pierre, Paris.

An Adamson survey will be at Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck College, London, May 2017.

f. ‘Art as Healing’: 10 February 2015, Reception at the Speaker’s House, Palace of Westminster attended by Ministers, Members of both Houses, and senior Civil Servants.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England