Secret and safe: The underlife of concealed objects from the Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, Tasmania

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Bryant, Lauren
Burke, Heather
Ireland, Tracy
Wallis, Lynley A
Wight, Chantal
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2020
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Abstract

This paper focuses on a collection of objects deliberately concealed beneath the verandah of a ward for middle-class, female, paying patients at Australia’s longest continuously operating mental health institution, the Royal Derwent Hospital in Tasmania. Cached in small discrete mounds across an area of some 50 square metres, the collection was probably concealed in the mid-20th century and contains over 1000 items of clothing, ephemera and other objects dating from 1880 to the mid-1940s. In achieving a possessional territory of such magnitude, this patient achieved a level of personal self-expression that is rarely encountered archaeologically, particularly within an institutional context. Analysis of this collection as an ‘underlife’ illuminates both functional aspects of the hospital and the hopes and desires of this particular, though still anonymous, patient and her vibrant world of things.

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Journal of Social Archaeology

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20

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2

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Historical archaeology (incl. industrial archaeology)

Heritage and cultural conservation

Science & Technology

Social Sciences

Life Sciences & Biomedicine

Anthropology

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Bryant, L; Burke, H; Ireland, T; Wallis, LA; Wight, C, Secret and safe: The underlife of concealed objects from the Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, Tasmania, Journal of Social Archaeology, 2020, 20 (2), pp. 166-188

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