The Mental Health Recovery Archive was created over 12 months from September 2012 to September 2013. it contains four exhibitions by four contributors with lived experience of mental health: Andrew Voyce, Dolly Sen, Stuart Baker Brown and Peter Bullimore. The exhibitions tell each contributor's personal story as well as exploring their personal philosphy on recovery.
The impetus for the creation of the recovery archive came from Anna Sexton's PhD research. Anna holds an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award to work in partnership with the Department of Information Studies at UCL and the Wellcome Library. The funding was given to explore 'participatory archives'.
The mental health recovery archive has been created in the context of the Wellcome Library's archive and manuscipt collections that collectively tell the story of mental health. A story that is mostly told from the point of view of the mental health professional expert. The recovery archive has been created to make a contribution to addressing the imblance of voice within those collections.
The archive has been built using Participatory Action Research as a methodology for working collaboratively. Andrew, Dolly and Stuart have worked independently on Omeka to build their exhibitions with very little intervention from Anna other than minor editing suggestions. Peter's exhibition was created slightly differently as it is built form the content of two oral history interviews between Anna and Peter. The words are Peter's but Anna has been responsible for structuring the exhibition and deciding what parts of the interviews to include.
Why these four contributors? Having looked into representations of mental health with the Wellcome's archives and manuscripts collections and recognising the imbalances of voice within the overarching story, Anna wanted to create an archive that would be based around lived experience. She had begun to read mental health service user narratives and a colleague pointed her towards a collection of recovery stories edited by Professor Jerome Carson. Anna made contact with Jerome who in turn put her in contact with Dolly, Stuart, Andrew and Peter. Jerome has been actively involved in the recovery archive by lending it his continued support and by attending the workshops where collective decisions about the archive have been made.
For a more detailed exploration of how the mental health recovery archive has been put together please look at Anna Sexton's exhibition.