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Box of card tokens at St Audry's Hospital, England, 1939-1945

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These tokens were reward payments to patients for work done in asylum workshops or gardens. This work was a type of occupational therapy. Coloured tokens were exchanged for items such as cigarettes and cakes. They encouraged positive behaviour and were crucial in upholding asylums’ elaborate systems of privileges. St Audry’s Hospital opened in 1765 as a workhouse for the poor. It became the Suffolk County Lunatic Asylum in 1827. The hospital was also known as St Audry’s Hospital for Mental Diseases from 1917. The hospital and the associated Asylum Museum shut down in the late 1980s. This object was once displayed at the museum.

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Glossary: token

Designates a substitute for money that move within a limited universe, usually not in general circulation, that may be exchanged for particular goods or services, and are made from hard substances whose intrinsic value is always less than the stated value. The best known example, the trade tokens of Strachan and Company, were issued in South Africa in 1874 and are today recognised as that country's first widely circulating indigenous currency.

Glossary: asylum

A historic term for a psychiatric hospital. The term in this context was common in the 1700s and 1800s, but is no longer in use.

Glossary: occupational therapy

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