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The Wellcome Collection

Explore the Fascinating Story of Madness and Mental Control in This Digital Journey


From mesmerism to Freud’s couch, this story uses videos, texts, tweets and images from The Wellcome Collection to draw a captivating map.

The Wellcome Collection continues to regale us with the most extraordinary treasures. The free destination for the incurably curious, as the site calls itself, and which is perhaps the most notable post-modern wunderkramer that exists. At least when it comes to the history of medicine. But is it not there that a large part of the history of human evolution is condensed? Doctors, by trying to understand the physical and mental symptoms that afflict society, have traced the symbolic symptoms of their times.

Mindcraft: A century of madness, murder and mental healing is the first digital history of the Wellcome Collection, published in the form of a fascinating interactive journey that very probably marks the beginning of a narrative genre in itself. The interface transports the user through cultures and continents to tell them the story of the history of mental control, from mesmerism in Paris to hypnotism on Freud’s couch. Obviously it is, to a large extent, a horror story.

The history of madness is found in the margins of official history. When people still believed in physiognomy, in the face of the mad one as an object of scientific study, doctors took advantage of it to put all kinds of strange experiments to the test, many of which were barbaric. Madness has been a privileged space to answer questions regarding mental control (i.e. hypnosis), to measure consequence (trances) or the way in which humans can overcome their traumas (the development of multiple personalities). For society, the madman or woman will always be the other, and therefore a canvas on which to experiment with treatments.

The author and curator of this history is the brilliant Mike Kay, the cultural historian chosen by The GuardianThe Independent and the New Statesman, and who on this occasion shares his intrigue for all that Freudian psychoanalysis calls the ‘oceanic subconscious’ and all the psychiatric forms that have emerged to understand it. The story unfolds in six parts that cover 1779 to 1895, each one related to an historic moment of discovery and told in a variety of narrative styles: images, text, multimedia, tweets and videos.

The story of Mindcraft is an essential journey for the incurably curious ones among us who navigate the web in search of treasures. Begin the journey here.

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