One More Summer Roadtrip: Wood County Lunatic House

10 September 2013
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The Lunatic House sits beside the main Infirmary building

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

Yes, we do listen to your suggestions! Earlier this summer, historian of psychology Ryan Tweney left us a comment in response to our post about our roadtrip to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph, Missouri. Tweney said we might also enjoy visiting the “Lunatic House” in Bowling Green, Ohio – so we decided to make one last trip before fall was officially upon us.

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Front entrance to the Infirmary building

The Lunatic House in Bowling Green is actually a part of a collection of buildings that now constitute the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The primary exhibits are located in the oldest and largest building on the property: the infirmary. The displays take you through the rooms, floors, and wings of the building – beginning first with the history of the County Home itself before growing outwards to include medical history, technological developments, and a history of Ohio.

The site is quite unique, as one of the last remaining county poorhouses in Ohio with a majority of the original structures still standing. The poorhouse system dates to the early nineteenth century in the Unites States. Individual counties provided residential institutions (often as part of farm land) to house those who were unemployed or otherwise did not have the financial means to support themselves. Much like other states, every county in Ohio opened its own poorhouse. By mid-century, the Ohio General Assembly ordered these facilities to take in a wider population including the infirm, the elderly, and the mentally ill – renaming the poorhouses “infirmaries.” They later took on the name “county home” in 1919. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »


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 »