The Museum Dr. Guislain’s collection has two sections: the history of psychiatry and the art collection, a selection of which is on display at the museum. The medical collection started out as a small ‘key collection’ of old objects that were preserved inside the walls of the Guislain Hospital. The vast majority of the collection was acquired by the museum itself, either through purchase or donations and bequests. The medical collection is particularly heterogeneous and consists of objects that refer to the pre-psychiatric period, the humanities before Freud, as well as biologically-oriented psychiatry. The museum also has an extensive photo collection that chronicles the interest of 19th-century psychiatry in this new medium. The Scottish ‘psychiatrist’ Dr. Diamond decided in 1850 to no longer illustrate his textbooks with engravings but with photographs. Photographs allowed him to consider the mentally ill person in a ‘more objective way’ and even put this young field of science on the way to finding actual ‘types’ of psychiatric disorders. In addition to a historical collection, the museum regularly buys work by contemporary photographers.

The second section of the Museum Dr. Guislain’s collection is outsider art. This term denotes the spontaneous and unconventional work created by artists who operate outside of the professional art scene or on the fringes of society. They can be psychiatric patients, people with intellectual disability, people who lead isolated lives and struggle to find their place in society as well as playful creative souls whose work allows them to uninhibitedly go their own way. In 2002, the collection in Ghent expanded tremendously with the internationally acclaimed collection of De Stadshof Collection Foundation, which is on long term loan. The Museum Dr. Guislain’s art collection also has room for contemporary art that is linked with mental health care, such as work by Peter Granser, Gérard Alary, Jean Rustin, Koen Broucke, Philippe Vandenberg, Ronny Delrue and Marc Maet.