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 »


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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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 »


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 »


“Meeting” the famous Phineas Gage

11 March 2011

Day Trip: the Warren Anatomical Museum

I finally made it to the Warren Anatomical Museum – it’s been on my “things to see in Boston” list for ages but for some reason has always seemed too far out of the way on previous trips.

The museum officially dates to 1847. It was created by John Collins Warren who started the collection while he was still a young medical student in the late eighteenth century. Warren graduated from Harvard in 1797 and later practiced with his father at the same institution (that his father had helped to found), assisting with lectures and anatomical demonstrations. He would go on to become a Professor of Anatomy and Surgery and would perform the first public demonstration of ether as an anesthetic at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846.

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First stop: Selkirk, MB

12 July 2010

Stop 1: Selkirk Mental Health Centre Heritage Room & Archives

After a beautiful three day drive through Northern Ontario we arrived in Manitoba yesterday afternoon. Staying at Birds Hill Provincial Park located just outside of Winnipeg (random note: the deer have no fear of humans and are not shy about walking right onto your campsite and standing beside you – very unnerving when you turn around and suddenly a big deer is standing there staring at you!)

This morning was my first day of research on a month-long trip that takes me across Canada. I’ve started in Selkirk, Manitoba where what was the Manitoba Asylum (today: Selkirk Mental Health Centre) opened in 1886.

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Last day…for now!

3 July 2010

Last day: More artifacts & annual reports

It was a great Friday: spent the entire morning digging through boxes in the NY State Museum‘s storage room for artifacts from the Utica and Willard State Hospitals. Got to see some really interesting material! Among the coolest was Amariah Brigham‘s phrenological hat (for a film about how it works see this link – watch from 43 seconds in).

Finished off with the Utica annual reports in the afternoon + made it part way through the volumes of The Opal. Definitely am going to need to come back – I barely dented the materials held by both the Archives and the Museum!!

Heading back to NYC tomorrow AM and then it’s back on the overnight bus to Toronto. Next trip: Tim and I are driving across Canada to check out asylum and mental hospital museum collections! We leave next weekend.