Mind, the map

Last week I attended the launch of a new exhibition at the Science Museum, called Mind Maps: stories from psychology. This is an exhibition, sponsored by the British Psychological Society, which:

.. explores how mental health conditions have been diagnosed and treated over the past 250 years. …this exhibition looks at key breakthroughs in scientists’ understanding of the mind and the tools and methods of treatment that have been developed, from Mesmerism to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) …. Bringing together psychology, other related sciences, medicine and human stories, the exhibition is illustrated through a rich array of historical and contemporary objects, artworks and archive images.

I was there thanks to a shiny black and gold sign that has appeared on my blog before, courtesy of the MRC Centenary exhibition Strictly Science.

I had always thought the sign looked rather attractive, in an olde-worlde kind of way, so I brought it to the attention of the Strictly Science curators when they came for a look around last year. They recognised it as the sign for Henry Dale’s old lab at NIMR when it was in Hampstead, so they borrowed it for their exhibition at Imperial College in April this year. Dale’s lab was the fourth lab on the first floor of the building, hence F4. Presumably someone from the Science Museum then spotted the sign at the Strictly Science exhibition because I subsequently received an email asking if I would lend it to them for their Mind Maps exhibition.


The Mind Maps exhibition includes much that I would class as neuroscience and neurophysiology rather than psychology.  It goes back to Galvani – his 300 year old apparatus is displayed in the exhibition – and continues right up to current research on connectomics.

The exhibits that have been gathered together in this exhibition are pretty impressive – you get a real sense of history – and they tell a great story of neurophysiological research, albeit just touching the peaks rather diving into its depths. As well as the Galvani table I rather liked Charles Sherrington’s cat (move over Schrodinger’s cat!)

I also loved the rather scary section on medical electricity. The look of terror on the face of the man in this painting is all too realistic.

The exhibition also featured displays about Hipp, George Adams, William Grey Walter, Hans Eysenck, Sigmund Freud and more recent material on Valium, Prozac, fMRI and EEG.

My F4 sign is displayed in a small section about Henry Dale which includes excerpts from the film Let’s get an effect. This was a film made by members of Dale’s F4 lab in 1949, some years after he had retired, and just before they all moved to the new building in Mill Hill. It is apparently full of in-jokes about Henry Dale and his lab, though they are a bit obscure to the casual observer. Tilli Tansey has described the film, the jokes and the people portrayed in the various scenes of the film, in her W.D.M. Paton Memorial Lecture about Henry Dale’s lab:

The film is called LET’S GET AN EFFECT, which was a favourite saying of Henry Dale’s whilst doing an experiment, and subtitled AN EF-FOUR-VESCENT EPISODE, an obvious pun.

The Science Museum website has some more information about some of the objects in the exhibition and there is a blog post plus video by Samira Ahmed too, about the making of the exhibition.

Mind Maps runs until August 2014 and is free to view, so do get yourself to have a look if you have any interest in matters neuro or psycho, and find yourself within reach of London’s Exhibition Road.

Postscript: Just after posting this I spotted a longer and more scholarly review of the exhibition by Keith Laws on his blog.

About Frank

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
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