Today was our first full day in London! We had our morning meeting around 8 and then quickly departed via charter bus for Bethlem, Museum of the Mind. We had a really great talk about the history of Bethlem and how it was originally created for religious purposes and worked it’s way into a mental hospital of sorts. At the beginning it was very public and in order to get donations they would have outside folks come in and see the facility and show off the patients. Eventually this was forbidden, but that made the treatment of the patients worse because there was no government involvement and no outsiders for accountability. We did a cool activity where we got to read the actual medical records from the 1880s and go through their modern museum. I really annoyed the museum and learned a lot about the history of Bethlem and how it operates currently. The second place we went to today was the home of Charles Darwin also known as The Diane House. I learned a lot about Darwin as a scientist and as a human being. His journey to becoming a scientist, his experience as a father, and his experience after publishing his work was fascinating. I was also extremely impressed by his gardens and essentially his on site laboratory.
Today I was surprised by how recent these events in history are. It was crazy to me that the granddaughter of Darwin just passed away in 1980. I think it was can be easy to put history in a different compartment in my brain that views things as being super far away, but this made Darwin’s discoveries, experiences, and house that much more realistic and relevant to me.
The Bethlem museum was interesting in that religion played a role in people’s motivation to build the facilities themselves and to donate to the facilities. The guide discussed how there wasn’t a distinct period of time where the facility was no longer religiously motivated, but rather just overtime evolved and stayed modern. Darwin posses many interesting angles to analyze religion. He considered himself agnostic, and his work of course directly went against the idea of creationism. He marginalized himself in a way by publishing this work and having people call him mad for thinking this way. He pushed the boundaries with his family as well with his views causing come contention with his wife. His views also caused problems with others misinterpreting them and looking to creat a superior race via eugenics. This also posses interesting questions in terms of religion and people feeling as though it was their moral obligation to wipe out entire races. A lot of interesting questions come from both Darwin and Bethlem in terms of religion.