Save House 21 Maresfield Gardens/ Save Anna Freud's tradition
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Dear Psychoanalytic community,
After the pressure that current Anna Freud Centre students have been put under as a result of this petition, we, as a group of ALUMNI, who wish to preserve Anna Freud’s legacy, take over management of the petition and assume full responsibility for the following letter and its promotion:
We wish to respectfully convey our opinion on the selling of House 21 Maresfield Gardens.
Heritage conservation is an endeavour that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance. The term tends to refer specifically to the preservation of the built environment.
The Freud Museum, at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, was the home of Sigmund Freud and his family when they escaped Austria after the Nazi annexation in 1938. It remained the family home until Anna Freud died in 1982. It was her wish that the house became a museum to honour her father.
Sigmund Freud contemplated the value that direct observation of children might have: “Surely there must be a possibility of observing in children at first hand and in all the freshness of life the sexual impulses and wishes which we dig out so laboriously in adults from among their own debris” (Freud, 1909, p.6).
It was Anna who, following her father’s intuition, developed longitudinal observations of babies and direct observation of pre-oedipal children. She brought her work and theory from Vienna’s Die Kindergruppe (1927-38) and the Jackson Nursery (1937-38) to the houses that gave shelter to the Hampstead War Nurseries (1940-45), the Hampstead Nursery School (1957-99), the Well-Baby Clinic and the first Parent-Toddler Groups (1950s).
Furthermore, Anna Freud’s brother during the 50’s built the little hut that’s located in the backyard of House 21 Maresfield Gardens, to be used initially as a place to support blind children, which then became the “Toddler Hut”. It serves many functions still as it is preserved and functioning until now, used as a therapeutic space for toddlers and their families, as well as for the training of observational skills of the AFC’s MSc students. Most of the furniture and toys that Anna Freud brought from the Jackson Nurseries to London are still used at the Toddler Groups. This building now forms a part of the Anna Freud Centre.
Maresfield Gardens has fostered the development of psychoanalytic theory and of Anna Freud, whose legacy still lives very vividly inside House 21. The Anna Freud Centre, with its close proximity to the Tavistock Clinic, hosted discussions, agreements and disagreements within the psychoanalytical discourse. These facts make of this road a real nest for psychoanalytic history.
For psychoanalysis the importance of history and heritage is fundamental and these building forms a great part of the psychoanalytic history and its development as a theory. As students we believe that not taking care of these spaces means a great loss and it’s because of this that we chose to make use of our voice and manifest our discontent with the decision of selling this house.
We appreciate that the Freud museum will be preserved, but that is his memorial. Anna Freud was a pioneer and she deserves to have her own work and memory preserved as well. Anna Freud’s early work confirmed that the first years of the child’s life are completely critical for all later physical, neurological, mental and emotional development. The evidence she developed on the importance of early childhood experience influenced government policies and general public sensitivity towards infancy.
As students we have lived in these corridors and we have made of this place our home, during the time we have been studying here. We have the privilege of being educated in the same rooms where Anna Freud used to work and teach, where her tradition of child psychoanalysis was created, systematised and shared with future generations. We have been invited to be a part of this project and to be disengaged from this situation cannot be expected from us. Being trained inside this building means we become a part of a tradition, an identity and that makes us want to preserve these spaces that we are now as much a part of as they are a part of us.
As sons and daughters of Anna Freud’s tradition, we now wish to honour her memory and legacy, just like she wished to honour her fathers’. Recent history is valuable, and it will be even more to future generations. This is why we consider it imperative to share our point of view, and state our wish to preserve House 21 Maresfield Gardens’s as psychoanalytic heritage.
A group of Anna Freud Centre ALUMNI wishing to preserve Anna Freud’s legacy
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