Part of a series of positive illustrations produced by Holly Lanforth and loaned to Leeds City Museum for the Open Minds display.


Open Minds explores the experience of mental health and mental illness in Leeds.

It has been curated by the Preservative Party, Leeds City Museum’s volunteers aged 14-25, alongside members of the community. It is our voices you hear throughout the display. We believe mental health is a really important topic to talk about because it effects each and every one of us daily.

We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has shared their story, and the organisations that helped us in the production of this exhibition. A special thanks to the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield for their support, advice and loaned items.

Please be aware that this display includes themes which may be upsetting. If you are affected by anything in this exhibition, please talk to someone.

Mental health and mental illness: a timeline

This timeline is a brief history of mental health from 1100s to 2020  including personal stories that people have shared.

Come along to the museum to see the full timeline.

Objects and their stories

We have chosen a selection of key objects that feature as part of Open Minds. These items represent the different ways in which we have come to understand and treat mental health and mental illness across different decades, from the early 20th Century to 2020.

Hydrotherapy Bath

Hydrotherapy was used to treat a variety of mental illnesses in the early 20th Century. Patients were placed in a bath, and a wooden or fabric cover was used to stop them from getting out. The bath temperature was dictated by the staff depending on the patient’s diagnosis.

Stanley Royd in Wakefield used hydrotherapy, and the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield are loaning Open Minds one of the baths used there. As part of this exhibition we spoke to local photographer Bob Clayden who worked as a plumber at an asylum. He spoke about the stories he was told about the baths ‘boiling and freezing patients in cycles’. He also told us that visitors at Stanley Royd reported they could hear drumming. It was patients beating the wooden top of the baths.

The Hydrotherapy bath used at Stanley Royd. On loan from the Mental Health Museum, Wakefield. Photo courtesy Bob Clayden.

The Hydrotherapy bath used at Stanley Royd. On loan from the Mental Health Museum, Wakefield. Photo courtesy Bob Clayden.

Electroconvulsive Therapy Machine

In 1938 Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) was developed by Italian neurologist Ugo Carletti, who was convinced that induced convulsions were useful for treating schizophrenia. It was first used in the UK in 1939 and quickly becomes a popular treatment for a wide variety of mental illnesses.

This Siemens Konvulsator 2077 was used at Stanley Royd Hospital and includes sensors and a mouth guard.

Electroconvulsive Therapy machine on loan from Mental Health Museum in Wakefield.

Electroconvulsive Therapy equipment including a mouth guard and sensors. Image courtesy Mental Health Museum in Wakefield.

Chest Binder

Chest Binders are compression shirts that give the wearer the illusion of a flatter chest in order to appear more masculine. Chest binders can help alleviate gender dysphoria (when a person experiences distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity), which some Trans and Non-binary people experience.

Binders are to be worn for a recommended time of 8 hours and a maximum of 10 hours.




A chest binder

West Yorkshire Police sketches from trauma support resource

When we experience a traumatic event, our bodies react and create a stress response which makes us feel a number of different symptoms. Whilst our responses to trauma usually only last a few minutes or hours, in some situations these feelings of shock and fear can last for much longer or be retriggered.

These drawings were produced by West Yorkshire Police Occupational Health Team to support members of staff who have been involved in traumatic incidents at work.

A series of cartoons from trauma support resource. On loan from West Yorkshire Police Occupational Health Department

Support group posters and leaflets

Charities such as Andy’s Man Club provide people with a safe place to talk about how they feel. Ex-Leeds Rhinos player Luke Amber created Andy’s Man Club in 2016 after losing his brother in law, Andy Roberts, to suicide. It encourages talking groups for men over 18.

A selection of posters from local organisations illustrating the importance of talking to promote positive mental health.

Barbie Dolls

There is pressure from society to look a certain way. Our ideals of beauty feature in everything from fashion and art, to media and toys.

The first Barbie doll was released in 1959 in America. Sindy, made by British company Pedigree Dolls and Toys, followed in 1963. Sindy and Barbie (along with the male Ken doll) have been criticised for promoting an unhealthy and impossible body image. Barbie now includes the ‘Fashionistas’ range, which features a more diverse range of dolls.

Two Barbie dolls from the ‘Fashionista’ range. One has vitiligo, dark curly hair and is wearing a colourful striped dress, white high top trainers and a bumbag. The other Barbie doll has a prosthetic leg, wearing a dress with ruffled sleeves and striped pattern with white shoes and silvery hooped earrings. The doll has long brunette hair is styled in a partial updo.


The Preservative Party worked with DigiFish to produce animations to accompany the Open Minds display.
TW: these animations address body image and isolation under the wider theme of mental health, which some viewers may find triggering.

Body Image

Body Image is a theme of the Open Minds display. Both animations explore isolation, but this animation looks at how isolated you can feel when you are struggling with your body image.


During lockdown we discussed the impact of isolation on all of us. The Preservative Party decided to produce an animation which would explore isolation experiences, and how these can affect us all, regardless of the physical constraints of lockdown. We gathered several anonymous isolation stories and voiced these ourselves, from the comfort of our own isolated lockdown locations.

Positive Illustrations

As people have understood and observed more about mental health, treatment has changed and evolved. The Treatment display in Open Minds explores some of the diverse treatments used over the last hundred years. In recent years talking or art therapies have become increasingly popular.

‘I have done some illustrations with positive messages for mental health as I have been reflecting on how we can have an inner critic in our minds and sometimes we all need reminders that we have worth and value and no matter what happened in the past, we deserve mercy and forgiveness.’ Holly Lanforth.

The Preservative Party

Find out more about the Preservative Party, Leeds City Museum’s young volunteers aged 14-24 in our blog on youth engagement in museums.
Read about our experience curating and producing this exhibition over on our blog.

Copyright © Leeds City Council 2021