Jenni Munday

Postcards from the Asylum II

9 postcards + Title piece; cyanotype prints and embroidery

The Postcards are an art response to the data and artefacts being collected in a research project about Mayday Hills, the former lunatic asylum, in Beechworth, Victoria. The Anthropocene period is said to date from the start of humans having a significant impact on the Earth. The planned environmental changes for the creation of the mental asylum, along with other changes to the local environment during the colonising years, were on one hand to create a place of peace and retreat for those suffering from mental diseases, and on the other to place them a good distance away from ‘normal’ society. As we move further into the Anthropocene, which is being denied by some governments, “it is thought by some academics that the impact… on future populations will include ‘climate trauma’: widespread mental illness in the form of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress” (Dickinson, 2015).

Postcards featured prominently in the collection of images when the research project started. Mayday Hills is not alone as an asylum with picture postcards showing the administration building as if a picturesque “holiday” destination. Worldwide, where these large ornate buildings were being erected in the mid to late nineteenth century, postcards showing buildings and grounds were popular (Bogdan & Marshall, 1997).

This series of Postcards are cyanotypes and embroidery. The blue of the cyanotype is melancholic; and the embroidery is in response to an amazingly decorated article of clothing produced by a patient, which is currently held in the Dax Centre in the University of Melbourne.


Bogdan, R. & Marshall, A. 1997. Views of the Asylum: Picture postcard depictions of institutions for people with mental disorders in the early 20th century. Visual Studies, 12:1, 4-27.

Dickinson, B. 2015. Art and the Anthropocene. Art Monthly 389; September 2015:

Jenni Munday is on the academic faculty of Charles Sturt University. After studying and creating in the performing arts, Jenni has in recent years responded to her research through arts making in a variety of forms. She enjoys taking opportunities to learn new arts methods and apply them to findings from research.

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