The Museum Dr. Guislain is situated in the buildings of Belgium's first psychiatric institution. From the unique history of this location it means to lead a multi-faceted and topical debate about 'What is normal, what is abnormal?' and 'How does society approach this?' The presentation of the heritage of psychiatric care is the point of departure: how has it gone over time with people or things that are different? In what ways have the mentally ill been approached, treated and/or excluded? What does this teach us about the contemporary situation?
Through the visualisation of these questions the museum aims to make it easier to discuss mental illness in our society. So the museum is a meeting place where people confront different views, attitudes and experiences in relation to what is 'normal' with their own convictions and ways of doing things. Moreover, the museum emphasizes that the 'other', the 'abnormal' may not be seen exclusively in terms of a deficiency, complaint or problem. The testimonies and the expressive work of psychiatric patients here provide strong evidence of the power of creativity 'in spite of everything'.
The museum links its accessibility to a strong formal presentation. In addition it couples the rich and varied collection from the heritage of the mental healthcare with its other functions (conservation, supervision, scientific research). Beside strictly psychiatric/medical things (opinions as well as practices) the museum's collection takes an intentionally broad view. Medical and social photography, ethnographic items and outsider art form the essential subdivisions of the archive. This allows the museum to ask the key questions for a wide public.