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

Lauren Bryant, Heather Burke, Tracy Ireland, Lynley Wallis, Chantal Wight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Early online date12 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2020


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