Four Floors + a Gift Shop: A History of Psychiatry Roadtrip

9 July 2013

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This is a special post co-authored by Jennifer Bazar and Jacy Young and published simultaneously at both the Advances in the History of Psychology (AHP) and FieldNotes blogs.

The 45th annual meeting of Cheiron was held at the end of June in Irving, Texas – 22 hours didn’t seem like a long enough a drive, so we decided to detour a few hours to swing through St Joseph, Missouri. What, you may be wondering, would draw two historians of psychology so eagerly to Missouri? Why, the Glore Psychiatric Museum of course!

The Glore Psychiatric Museum is the largest psychiatric-focused museum (that the two of us know of) in North America. It is frequently named a “must see” on lists of unusual museums and was named in the book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die in the USA and Canada. It has likewise been featured in a number of televised documentaries on The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Discovery Health Channel, PBS, Fox News, The Science Channel, and Superstation WTBS. You can understand our willingness to re-route our drive down to Texas!

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AHP & FieldNotes @ Utica’s “Old Main”

24 April 2011

This is a special post being co-authored by Jeremy Burman and Jennifer Bazar. It is being co-hosted at both the Advances in the History of Psychology (AHP) and FieldNotes blogs.

On Thursday we were given a unique opportunity to tour the interior of the building that was originally opened as the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, NY. Built in 1843 to house the state’s so-called insane, the building remains an imposing example of Greek Revival architecture complete with six 48′ tall limestone columns flanking the main entrance.

We began the day in the contemporary institution on the property, the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center. Within the building is displayed a number of historical photographs and furniture (including a decorative fireplace!) from the original building. Among this collection was a large painting of Amariah Brigham, the institution’s first medical superintendent, which had been commissioned by some of the patients. Brigham was extremely influential in asylum history: he was one of the founders of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions (precursor to American Psychiatric Association), launched the American Journal of Insanity (precursor to the American Journal of Psychiatry), and created several unique items including a phrenological hat and the Utica crib. Read the rest of this entry »


Brraiins! and an impromptu meeting

21 April 2011

Day 3 PM: Cushing Center and Medical History Library

As soon as I knew we were headed towards Yale, I made a request to tour the Cushing Center. I knew about Harvey Cushing and his brain collection but after watching a YouTube video about the new Center, I really wanted to visit.

It was well worth the trip – our tour guide was Yale’s photographer, Terry Dagradi, who has taken some incredible shots of the various elements of the collection. With 400 brains in their original jars with Cushing’s labels, the collection is just plain fascinating. The space was also interesting in terms of its set-up and interactive aspects – under each case were drawers full of materials from the collection that you could pull out to explore. There was also a photo of Cushing with Ivan Pavlov beside the famous piece of steak that Pavlov “signed” with an electrosurgical knife in 1929! Read the rest of this entry »


Morning with Gertrude Stein

21 April 2011

Day 3 AM: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Spent the morning at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on Yale University’s campus going through a a part of Gertrude Stein‘s correspondence. The building really stands out from the rest of the Yale buildings in the area from the exterior but the interior is quite interesting – walking in you face the glass-encased stacks filled with rare books.

I requested some of the folders related to Stein’s Radcliffe days: her correspondence with William James, Hugo Münsterberg, Leon Mendez Solomons and Adele Oppenheimer. It was a fun collection to look through – my favourite letter was from Münsterberg in which he described Stein as the “ideal student” and expressed what a pleasure she was to teach. I also enjoyed Solomons’ reflections on being a student in the Harvard psychology department.  


Yale’s Archives & Manuscripts

20 April 2011

Day 2: Feeling rather scholarly

Walking through the giant wooden doors of Sterling Memorial Library this morning was an awe-inspiring experience. There was just something surreal about pulling the big iron door handles and stepping under the intricately carved stone entrance-way beneath William Osler‘s words “The Library is the Heart of the University” – it’s just not experience I have on a regular basis.

I wasn’t prepared for the grandeur of the interior of Yale University‘s social science and humanities library – based on the arched ceilings, stained glass, and extraordinary Gothic details I was certain the building was a re-purposed cathedral. It turns out that it was built in 1930 on the design of James Gamble Rogers, a Yale alumni. The second largest university library in North America, it holds over 12.5 million volumes – and is home to the Manuscripts and Archives collection. Read the rest of this entry »


Binghamton, the first inebriate asylum

19 April 2011

Day 1: Some asylum tourism

I can never say no when an opportunity arises to visit an archive or to do some asylum tourism — or even better — both!! So that’s how I have found myself on a quick spring trip through New York state and over to New Haven, Connecticut. I managed to convince my officemate, Jeremy Burman, to come along with me which has already made for great company on the long drive (and a helpful navigator for all my wrong turns!)

Today we met Craig Williams (one of the curators for the New York State Museum) in Binghamton, NY. Aside from being embarrassingly late (we circled Binghamton on various interstates for a good 45 minutes before finding our way) it was a fun stop: we got to tour part of the grounds of the Greater Binghamton Health Center which included the historic Asylum building (a portion of which is pictured top left).

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Surprises Still Coming After Each New Museum

6 April 2011

Day trip: Utica Crib in Canada?

Yesterday I took a tour of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital Collection at St. Joseph’s Healthcare (Mountain/West 5th campus) in Hamilton, Ontario. I had heard rumours of a museum for several years but had been told it was no longer open – then my Grandmother sent me an article from The Hamilton Spectator with the title “Museum has shocking artifacts” from this past August. The article annoyed me because it seemed full of sensationalist stereotypes (ex. it opens with: “They were like jumper cables for the brain. Hook ’em up, hit the switch and zap!”) but it also explained that the collection was open to the public by appointment and provided all the contact information. After a long series of phone tag messages with the volunteer coordinator, I set up an appointment for a tour. Read the rest of this entry »