– Swiss disease patterns An exhibition and book project gives an insight into everyday life in psychiatric institutions from 1880 to 1935. But the photographs can only be trusted to a limited extent. Published today at 5:06 am Perreux Nursing Home, Neuchâtel, patients undergoing air therapy, undated, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum The undated photograph, which shows women in beds on a balcony, is reminiscent of scenes from spa hotels. But the recording of an “air cure” was in a psychiatric facility: in the Perreux nursing home in the canton of Neuchâtel. Waldau cantonal insane asylum, Bern, three patients in front of a canvas, easel, portraits of the painters, around 1920, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Cantonal insane asylum in Waldau, Berne, patients working as roofers, 1921, new construction of the barn after a fire, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Cantonal insane asylum in Waldau, Bern, patients in a department for so-called “restless” women, undated, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Presumably Marsens Sanatorium and Nursing Home, Fribourg, “Musical Idiot”. A nun plays music on a gramophone to a child, undated, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum What went on behind the walls of sanatoriums and insane asylums well into the 20th century mostly remained hidden from the public. But photographic evidence does exist, as art historian Katrin Luchsinger shows in the exhibition and book project “Behind Walls”. Together with Martina Wernli, she has compiled over 3000 recordings from the years 1880 to 1935 in various Swiss archives. Münsterlingen sanatorium and nursing home, Thurgau, loading goods carts on Lake Constance, photographer Hermann Rorschach, around 1911. Photo: Thurgau State Archives Waldau cantonal insane asylum, Bern, the psychiatrist Marie von Ries-Imchanitzky in the guard room for “restless” men, around 1920, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Nursing home Alt-Rheinau, sunbathing on the bedspreads on the banks of the Rhine in front of the home, around 1910, glass slide. Photo: Natural Research Society Schaffhausen The images are not systematic; photography in psychiatry served different purposes. On the one hand, doctors adopted the medium of capturing various forms of illness in portraits – as if a certain mental disorder could be inferred from their external appearance. On the other hand, there are photographs for advertising purposes which, according to Luchsinger, stage a “forced normality”. And last but not least, the staff, with private intentions, photographed life in the institution. There are pictures from studios, from festivities or from people at work. Read also PLN Officially Cancels Electric Stoves Program, Here's the Reason Cantonal insane asylum in Waldau, Bern, nurse in one of the departments headed by Marie von Ries-Imchanitzky. Photographer Marie von Ries-Imchanitzky, around 1920, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Münsterlingen sanatorium and nursing home, garden party 1913, dancing, photographer Hermann Rorschach, 1912. Photo: Thurgau State Archives Cantonal mental asylum Waldau, Bern, institution baker with Bundt cake and tartlets, undated, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum Cantonal insane asylum in Waldau, Bern, male and female nurses in the institution, before 1933, glass slide. Photo: Bern Psychiatric Museum However, as Katrin Luchsinger writes in the publication, no clear purpose can be determined for some of the photographs. In the picture of the man with three tawny owls, it is not even certain whether it is a patient or, as the caption says, a “guard”. Rheinau Nursing Home, Tawny Owls, A patient or attendant presents three living owls. Photographer Friedrich Ris, around 1910, glass slide. Photo: Naturforschende Gesellschaft Schaffhausen, estate of Friedrich Ris What is missing are images of suffering or coercive measures. And so these photographs give an insight into a closed world – but only show a part of it.