The London Asylum for the Insane and various other asylums throughout Ontario have relied upon government and public funding since their inception. In the 1880s, nearly 20% of the provincial budget went to the operation of asylums. This spending contributed to many asylum visitors who believed that as taxpayers, it was their right to see how their money was being used. There was a general interest in how asylums functioned, what their goals were, what types of patients were housed there, and how they contributed to the community. At the time of their construction, asylums reflected social standards, concepts of morality, and were a source of community pride. Superintendents promoted the idea of visitors as a means of encouraging community support, promoting tourism spending, and creating public awareness about the function of asylums.

The desire to attract visitors to asylums can be seen in the various promotional material that was circulated as publicity for the asylums. Many asylums, including the LAI distributed promotional postcards to visitors. Middle and upper class families would often take day trips to an asylum. These visits were part of the normal social and recreational activities of the 19th century. Additionally, visiting asylums reflected the Victorian fascination with spectacle, and many families visited the asylum merely to gaze at the supposed "oddities" housed there. Visitors were often given tours of the asylum grounds by the superintendent or another staff member. These tours had mixed results. Some visitors were genuinely interested in the welfare of patients, while others were merely interested in seeing something 'strange.'

The public stigma and sense of voyeurism surrounding mental illness contributed to a mandate of positive public relations at the LAI. In principle, these efforts were designed to educate the general public and form connections within the community. This objective was exemplified in a letter written in August 1951 by superintendent Dr. George H. Stevenson to the funeral directors in London. He maintained that "Many people have a feeling of shame, quite unwarranted, concerning relatives who have been mentally ill" and that through public education this unwarranted feeling of shame could be eliminated.

Despite these good intentions, during the 19th century and early 20th century, feelings of shame and social stigma continued to surround the asylums and mental illness. This social stigma is seen in visitor reactions to being in close proximity the patients. One visitor remarked that, "The voices of the unfortunate inmates came continually to our ears, and as many of them walking through the grounds, gazed after us with vacant eyes, or followed us with rough words and grotesque features, the conviction was born in upon all that nothing could possibly be sadder in this fair world." The description of patients as inmates and as unfortunate souls reflects the lack of understanding of the purpose of mental health care and the treatable nature of many mental illnesses.