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 »


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 »