Get closer to Freud’s famous couch than ever before as Hampstead museum appeals to masses

PUBLISHED: 14:00 08 March 2013

Freud Musuem development director Marion Stone with the psychoanalyst's famous couch. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Freud Musuem development director Marion Stone with the psychoanalyst's famous couch. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Freud Museum has undergone a makeover to broaden its appeal rather than drawing a “cult following” of specialists interested in the father of psychoanalysis.

Freud's personal possessions are a major feature in the revamped museum. Picture: Nigel SuttonFreud's personal possessions are a major feature in the revamped museum. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Visitors will be able to get closer than ever before to Freud’s famous couch as the museum at his family home in Hampstead attempts to widen its appeal beyond the ivory towers of academia.

Over the past six years trustees have raised more than £100,000 through a combination of auctions, gala dinners and donations from individual benefactors.

Among the changes, an audio guide has been introduced and visitors will now be offered greater access to Freud’s personal possessions, letters and notebooks.

Marion Stone, development director at the museum, said: “We now have Freud’s overcoat, boots and wedding ring, which is inscribed with Martha’s name, on display as you enter the house.”

The ring had previously lain hidden in the top drawer of Freud’s desk before the overhaul just before Christmas.

A prescription for a chemist in Finchley also takes pride of place in a new wooden display cabinet in the hall and as visitors enter the dining room a film showing rare footage from 1938 is screened.

“It’s a bit of niche subject area and the museum is trying to appeal to a broader audience,” said Ms Stone.

“It’s pretty straightforward. We’d like to get more visitors and if you only appeal to a very small audience, you’re only going to get that audience.”

Freud’s atmospheric study, with his many artefacts from the ancient world, has been changed for a more interactive experience.

“For the first time visitors can get closer to the famous couch than ever before,” said Ms Stone.

“Previously there was just a rather narrow area inside the study where two people could stand. Now it’s a much better and larger space where you can stand much closer to the couch and see into the cabinets.

“You get a much more immersive experience, which is usually what people come to personality house museums for – to have a sense of connection with that person.”

It is hoped the changes will allow visitors to connect with the Freud family before they begin the rest of the journey around the house.

It was the wish of Freud’s daughter, Anna, that the family home in leafy Maresfield Gardens was turned into a museum.

She died in 1982 and the property was bequeathed in her will, with the museum eventually opening in 1986.

It is hoped that increased till receipts may eventually be invested back into setting up a research centre.

“It’s very much about building the museum for the future,” said Ms Stone. “I came here in 2007 and it was a really academic place.

“It was a place run by academics and serving mainly a professional audience and I think it will go back to scholarship and education and research.

“That will happen through an education and research centre later.

‘‘Once we establish a broader audience we can balance that again with education.”

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