As the old adage goes, there is more than one way to share history. A new project that takes this idea to heart will be made available to the public next week. The Telegraph has reported that Edward Elgar’s “Music for Powick Asylum” will be available from Somm Recordings on March 3rd, 2014 (a book of the written music is already available).
Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was an English composer who, at the age of 22, was conductor of the attendants’ band at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum in Powick, England. In this role, he reportedly both coached his fellow musicians and wrote the music they played. As was commonly practiced during the period, the institution’s resident physician, James Sherlock, encouraged these musical performances as part of the Friday night dances that were held for patients.
The music written by Elgar for the Asylum band between 1879 and 1884 was forgotten until it was re-discovered by contemporary British conductor Barry Collett. First re-played for the closing of the institution in 1988, the collection has now been recorded by the Innovation Chamber Ensemble. In describing the music, The Telegraph quotes Collett as saying “Some are quirky, some are foot-tapping and some are full of grace. I love them all.”
Personally, one of the reasons I am so fascinated with this project is the auditory experience that it provides of the historical record. This recording brings to life the “sounds of the asylum” – or at least those that were heard on Friday nights. Dolly MacKinnon, of the University of Queensland, has written about the importance of the historical soundscape of asylums and the Elgar project provides an opportunity for contemporary listeners to glimpse into this auditory world. Needless to say, I have already ordered a copy of the album.
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A project is underway to digitize the records of the Central State Hospital in Virginia. Led by King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, the project includes some 800,000 documents which span the period between 1870 and 1970. The collection is extraordinarily unique both in terms of its size and its scope. Davis has described that: “This is the most complete set of records on African Americans and mental health in place in the world” (source: Alcalde).
The Central State Hospital – formerly the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane – was opened in 1870. It was the only institution designated for the treatment of African Americans to operate in the state prior to the passing of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its story is one of only a small handful of “Colored Asylums”: while institutions for the insane would open in every state in the continental US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the vast majority served a uniquely White demographic.
The impetus for the project was reportedly the deterioration of the Central State Hospital’s records. Although digitization provides a way to preserve this rare archival collection, researchers must face the challenge of maintaining the privacy of the individual patients. To address these concerns the team is developing new Steganoscription software that will recognize the personal information contained within the handwritten documents.
Unfortunately the status of the project has been reported as “at a standstill” due to funding problems. In the meantime, a prototype of the website design can be found here.
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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.
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. Continue reading
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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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The History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series, organized by the British Psychological Society’s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has just announced a new talk. Craig E. Stephenson will be speaking about the seventeenth century possessions in Loudun, France and the recent reintroduction of the term possession into psychiatric discourse. The event will be held in London Wednesday, June 26th. Full event details, including the presentation abstract, follow below.
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Date: Wednesday 26 June, 2013
Location: UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN
Speaker: Dr Craig E. Stephenson (AGAP/CPA/CAPT/IAAP)
Seminar Title: ‘The possessions at Loudun: Their significance in the history of the science of mind’
Abstract: This seminar focuses on the seventeenth-century possessions at Loudun, France and presents how the events of this famous case played out at the time and how theorizing about possession and obsession changed over almost four centuries of writing about them. For instance, in his definition of demonism for the Schweizer Lexikon (1945) C.G. Jung referred to the debate about Loudun, as did Gilles de la Tourette, Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, and Jacques Lacan.
Eventually, psychopathology co-opted the word ‘obsession’, stripped of its religious connotation, and left the word ‘possession’ outside medical discourse. Then, in 1992, the American Psychiatric Association attempted to introduce ‘possession’ into its diagnostic manual (DSM-IV) as a mental disorder. Revisiting the history of Loudun provides a means for situating the APA’s recent interest in possession within a medical and intellectual continuum.
CFP: From Moral Treatment to Psychological Therapies: Histories of Psychotherapeutics from the York Retreat to the Present Day.
Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, UCL
11-13th October 2013
Whilst the history of psychiatry has become a well developed field of scholarship, there remain few examinations of psychotherapeutic treatments beyond histories of psychoanalytic approaches. This conference will bring together recent historical research on therapeutic treatments for mental distress and disorder, from the 18th century up to the present. It seeks to explore how such therapies were developed, their institutional and intellectual contexts, and the debates and controversies which may surround their use. ‘Psychotherapeutics’ is defined in its broadest terms, and is intended to include approaches that have been accepted by the medical or state establishments, as well as those practiced outside official institutional settings. Such modes of therapy could include moral treatment, mesmerism, mental healing, ‘talking’ therapies with a wide variety of theoretical bases, from psychoanalysis to cognitive therapy, as well as professional interventions such as those from psychiatric nursing, mental health social work, occupational therapy, play therapy and art therapy.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• The philosophical basis of therapies, such as existential, gestalt or behavioural approaches etc.
• Connections between the generation of therapeutic methods and their orginators’ biographies.
• Institutional, economic and political influences on the development of therapeutic practice.
• Psychotherapeutics in the health services.
• The professionalization and regulation of psychotherapeutic practice.
• The relationship between psychotherapeutic methods and other fields of knowledge, e.g. pedagogy, criminology, the neurosciences etc.
• Debates and controversies about psychotherapeutic approaches.
• The development of specific approaches for different age groups.
• Psychotherapeutic concepts in popular culture and the media.
Abstracts of up to 500 words for 20 minute papers should be sent to Sarah Marks at email@example.com. Proposals for themed panels with a maximum of four participants are also welcome. The deadline for individual papers and panel proposals is the 10th June 2013. Participants will be notified whether their papers have been accepted by 20th June 2013.
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PsychCentral, one of the larger psych-blogging hubs, has posted a review by Margarita Tartakovsky of Richard Noll‘s (2011) American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox.
In her reading of it, the book can be situated at the boundary between the history of psychiatry, the history of psychology, and the public understanding of science:
The public was introduced to dementia praecox by a 1907 piece in the New York Times that recounted the testimony in the murder trial of architect Stanford White. The superintendent of an asylum in Binghamton, N.Y. testified that the murderer, Harry Kendall Thaw, might’ve been suffering with dementia praecox.
In the late 1920s to the 1930s, dementia praecox started making its exit, replaced by Eugen Bleuler’s “schizophrenia.” At first, Noll says, these terms were used interchangeably in both clinical practice and research (which, naturally, made things very confusing). But these disorders had distinct differences.
Although he didn’t use the word, Noll—in a recent interview posted at the blog run by Harvard University Press—explained the overlap as being a consequence of schizophrenia’s “indigenization” into the American context. This then wrought changes in meaning:
By 1927 schizophrenia became the preferred term for inexplicable madness, but the Americans reframed Bleuler’s disease concept as a primarily functional or psychogenic condition that was caused by mothers or maladjustments to social reality. When Bleuler visited the United States in 1929 he was horrified to see what the Americans were calling schizophrenia. He insisted it was a physical disease with a chronic course characterized by exacerbations and remissions of hallucinations, delusions and bizarre behaviors.
This duality, of madness caught between mental condition and physical disease, also provides a connection from the mind back to medicine. Continue reading
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Hysteria is a condition strongly associated with the 19th century, and with long-past historical figures such as Jean-Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud. It was finally dropped from the psychiatric vocabulary in the mid-20th century because of its uncertain scientific basis, and because of the widespread perception that it was being used more as a way to control the behavior of women who did not conform to social norms than to label a coherent psychiatric condition.
A recent column in the New York Times, however, suggests that hysteria has made a comeback in the very same population that it was thought to be most prevalent in in times long past: teenage girls and young women. Author Caitlin Flanagan recounts the story of “a high school cheerleader” in a town near Buffalo, NY, who “lay down for a nap,” last October “and woke up changed…. facial tics, uncontrollable movement, stuttering, verbal outbursts.” She continues, “several other schoolmates have been afflicted, for a total of 14 girls. One boy reported symptoms.”
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The Fall 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are three articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology. In her article “The naturalist and the nuances,” which won the 2009 John C. Burnham Early Career Award from the Forum of the History of Human Sciences, Stéphanie Dupouy situates Darwin’s investigation of emotional expression within the context of previous scientific investigations on the subject. Articles by Anthony Kauders and Gerald Grob move into the twentieth century and discuss, respectively, Freud’s reception in Germany in the mid-twentieth century and challenges to psychiatric authority in the 1960s.
“The naturalist and the nuances: Sentimentalism, moral values, and emotional expression in Darwin and the anatomists,” by Stéphanie Dupouy. The abstract reads,
Comparing Charles Darwin’s account of emotional expression to previous nineteenth-century scientific studies on the same subject, this article intends to locate the exact nature of Darwin’s break in his 1872 book (as well as in his earlier notebooks). In contrast to a standard view that approaches this question in the framework of the creationism/evolutionism dichotomy, I argue that Darwin’s account distinguishes itself primarily by its distance toward the sentimentalist values and moral hierarchies that were traditionally linked with the study of expression—an attitude that is not an inevitable ingredient of the theory of evolution. However, Darwin’s approach also reintroduces another kind of hierarchy in human expression, but one based on attenuation and self-restraint in the exhibition of expressive signs.
“’Psychoanalysis is good, synthesis is better’: The German reception of Freud, 1930 and 1956,” by Anthony D. Kauders. The abstract reads, Continue reading
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As many AHP readers might know, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) hosts a free online screening room with nearly 1500 film clips, documentaries, animations, experimental films, and fictional films. A colleague recently directed me to a 2002 film by Canadian filmmaker Connie Littlefield that may be of interest to some AHP readers. Hoffmann’s Potion is a 56 minute film covering the early years of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) research by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffmann. Unlike similar documentaries by the BBC (also this 1997 film), Hoffmann’s Potion is not centered around American activist Timothy Leary. Instead, it looks at the spread of LSD research from Hoffmann’s lab in 1938 to psychiatric facilities in Canada, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and the United States in the 1940s and 50s.
The NFB offers this synopsis:
This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding. Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world.
Littlefield alternates between original documentary footage from the laboratories and new interviews with LSD researchers including: American psychiatrist Myron J. Stolaroff, Czechoslovakian transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof, and British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. Osmond worked at the now demolished Weyburn Mental Hospital in Weyburn Saskatchewan. His work with Canadian schizophrenia specialist Abram Hoffer applied LSD both to better understand the lives of schizophrenics, and to treat addiction.
See these previous AHP posts for a Bibliography of Psychoactive Drug Use in Psychology, and a Bibliography of LSD and Psychiatry.
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