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Corporate entry Charles Brothers Museum (1950s - 1980s)

Mental Health Library, Office of Psychiatric Services

Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Collection management and History of Australian Science


The Charles Brothers Museum at the Mental Health Library held a significant collection of psychiatric paraphernalia including artefacts, records, photographs, and interviews with Dr Cunningham-Dax and others. Dr Charles Brothers was the Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Mental Health Authority during the 1950s which is when he began his collection. Dr Cunningham-Dax was chairman during this time.

The Museum closed in the late 1980s and its contents appear to have been dispersed amongst several organisations. It is known that the Public Records Office of Victoria is now custodian of many of the collection's clinical files; Museum Victoria has most of the collection's objects; and the Royal Melbourne Hospital holds most photographs; other items remain unaccounted for.


Museum Victoria took over the Charles Brother's Collection in 1987. At that stage the collection contained over 700 items which had been used in Victorian psychiatric institutions from the 1860s to the 1950s. Many items were collected by Charles Brothers himself on his visits to the institutions, while others were donated by the institutions themselves.

Since 1987 Museum Victoria has expanded the collection and further researched the original contents. Additional artefacts were obtained from institutions including Caloola Training Centre (Sunbury) and Mayday Hills (Beechworth) and oral histories conducted by members of the Kew Cottages Historical Society have been added. A full list of artefacts in the collection can be found in Behind Closed Doors: A catalogue of artefacts from Victorian psychiatric institutions held at the Museum of Victoria.

Published resources


  • Willis, Elizabeth (with Twigg, Karen), Behind Closed Doors: a catalogue of artefacts from Victorian psychiatric institutions held at the Museum of Victoria (Melbourne: Museum Victoria, 1994). Details


Annette Alafaci