Tag Archives: asylum

New Image Database Online: Weill-Cornell Medical Center Archives

Over the course of the summer months, the Weill-Cornell Medical Center Archives in New York have been uploading images from their collection into two new online databases: one for internal users and one that is open to the public. The public database, a part of the Shared Shelf Commons, can be searched directly by selecting “Cornell: New York-Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell” from the drop-down menu. The online collection features both drawings and photographs and includes building interiors and exteriors, staff, and events from the New York Hospital buildings, the Bloomingdale Asylum (later Hospital), the House of Relief, the Lying-in Hospital, the Medical School, and the Nursing School (for background on these institutions, click here). The earliest images date into the late 1700s, with photographs beginning in the late 1800s and running well into the 1970s.

The project is the result of a collaboration between the Archives, Cornell University, and ARTstor.org.

AHP readers may be interested to know that much of the Weill-Cornell Medical Center Archives’ print collection is also available digitally via the ever-growing archive.org site. This material includes:

One More Summer Roadtrip: Wood County Lunatic House

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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. Continue reading One More Summer Roadtrip: Wood County Lunatic House

Devon County Mental Hospital Digital Archive

A website chronicling the history of the Devon County Mental Hospital (formerly the Devon County Lunatic Asylum) at Exminster has recently launched. The site is an outgrowth of a series of projects undertaken by Nicole Baur and Jo Melling at the Exeter Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, along with John Draisey of the Devon Heritage Centre.

Included on the site are sections that detail the history of the hospital’s setting and operation and describe four case studies from archived patient records. The site also features a detailed bibliography of publications related to the hospital, as well as a section of multimedia material and a page soliciting memories from those with some association with the hospital. As the site itself describes,

This website takes you on a fascinating journey through the history of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. Based on archival case notes and supplemented by Medical Superintendents’ and Commissioners of Lunacy’s reports as well as interviews with former staff, we tell the stories of real patients and their journey into, and life within, the asylum, hoping to highlight changes in the legislation and care of people suffering from mental health problems.

The entire site can be explored here.

New in Social History of Medicine

There are a number of articles in the just released May issue of Social History of Medicine that may be of interest to AHP’s readers. In a piece on music and hypnosis, James Kennaway explores the long and complicated relationship between music and selfhood from the time of Mesmeric uses of the glass harmonica (left) to more recent concerns about brainwashing. Additionally, two articles in the issue explore aspects of asylum history. The first discusses the role of the Irish Famine of the 1840s in Irish asylums, while the second explores efforts to control suicide in English public asylums in the latter half of the nineteenth century. A further piece delves into views on alcoholism in mid-to-late twentieth century Yugoslavia. Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.

“Musical Hypnosis: Sound and Selfhood from Mesmerism to Brainwashing,” by James Kennaway. The abstract reads,

Music has long been associated with trance states, but very little has been written about the modern western discussion of music as a form of hypnosis or ‘brainwashing’. However, from Mesmer’s use of the glass armonica to the supposed dangers of subliminal messages in heavy metal, the idea that music can overwhelm listeners’ self-control has been a recurrent theme. In particular, the concepts of automatic response and conditioned reflex have been the basis for a model of physiological psychology in which the self has been depicted as vulnerable to external stimuli such as music. This article will examine the discourse of hypnotic music from animal magnetism and the experimental hypnosis of the nineteenth century to the brainwashing panics since the Cold War, looking at the relationship between concerns about hypnotic music and the politics of the self and sexuality.

“Revisiting a ‘Demographic Freak’: Irish Asylums and Hidden Hunger,” by Melinda Grimsley-Smith.The abstract reads, Continue reading New in Social History of Medicine

APA Monitor: The American Asylum System

The March 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology has just gone online. In this month’s Time Capsule section, Ellen Holtzman describes the private asylum system that developed in the United States in the late 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Holtzman pays particular attention to Boris Sidis a medical doctor who also earned a PhD from Harvard under William James. As Holtzman describes,

In 1910, Sidis opened a private asylum, the Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, on the Portsmouth, N.H., estate of a wealthy New Englander. Hoping for referrals from psychologically minded colleagues, he announced the opening of his hospital in the Psychological Bulletin and advertised it in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, which he had founded. The ad noted that he would treat patients by “applying his special psychopathological and clinical methods of examination, observation and treatment.”

Sidis touted the luxury of the asylum’s accommodations and setting, even more than the availability of psychotherapy. “Beautiful grounds, private parks, rare trees, greenhouses, sun parlors, palatial rooms, luxuriously furnished private baths, private farm products,” wrote Sidis in his brochure describing the institute. Moreover, he offered his patients the somatic treatments of hydrotherapy and electrical stimulation, as did his less psychologically minded colleagues. The emphasis on luxury combined with the availability of the popular somatic treatments, even in an institution created by an “advanced” thinker like Sidis, suggests that wealthy patients expected a traditional, medical approach to treatment….

As the Sidis Institute illustrates, life in the small, private asylums contrasted sharply with conditions in the late 19th-century public institutions. Patients at public hospitals were usually involuntarily committed, and they typically displayed violent or suicidal behavior before their hospitalization. The public hospitals were overcrowded and dirty, with bars on the windows. The staff was poorly paid and frequently treated patients harshly. Given these terrible conditions, well-to-do patients used their wealth to take shelter in a physician’s home and escape the fate of the poor. Not surprisingly, the cost of a private hospitalization was steep. Sidis, for example, charged $50 to $100 and “upwards” a week ($50 would be equivalent to roughly $1,000 today). “Bills are payable in advance,” he informed his prospective patients.

The entire article can here read online here.

New History of Psychology Podcasts!

Christopher Green (left), producer of the podcast series This Week in the History of Psychology (or TWITHOP) and AHP faculty consultant, is back at work producing podcasts on the history of psychology.

Green has just released an episode of what is to be an occasional series, Discussions in the History of Psychology (or DitHoP). In this inaugural episode Vincent (Vinny) Hevern (centre), Henderikus (Hank) Stam (right), and Robert (Bob) Kugelman (not pictured) sat down with Green to discuss the history psychology’s “Third Force,” Humanistic psychology. You can find that episode here.

A further podcast series, History of Psychology Laboratory (or HooPLa!) is also being produced. The first episode of this series tackles the history of the nineteenth century lunatic asylum, and features interviews with noted historians Andrew Scull, David Wright, Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Gerald Grob. The discussion in this episode is led by Jennifer Bazar, and features Jeremy Burman and Jacy Young (all of whom are Green’s graduate students and AHP bloggers). A second episode on the history of mental testing is in the works and a third episode on the history of comparative psychology is in the planning stages.

Finally, Green et al. are at work on a new series, TWITHOP: Shorts. This podcast series will consist of brief (approximately 5 minute) reviews of significant new journal articles about the history of psychology. The first episode of this series is on Fridlund, Beck, Goldie, & Irons’ article “Little Albert: A Neurologically Impaired Child,” forthcoming from the journal History of Psychology (and currently available through APA’s PsycArticles on-line first initiative), with further episodes to come.

You can find these podcasts, as well as Green’s original series TWITHOP, here. Subscribe through iTunes here.

AHP & FieldNotes @ Utica’s “Old Main”

This is a special post co-authored by Jeremy Burman and Jennifer Bazar. It is 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. Continue reading AHP & FieldNotes @ Utica’s “Old Main”

New Issue: History of Psychiatry

The March 2011 issue of History of Psychiatry has just been released online. Included in this issue is an article on the mental health field in the United States post-WWII by Andrew Scull (left), as well as articles on the development of psychiatry in Latvia, the role of patient dress in a nineteenth century English lunatic asylum, and the influence of findings in pediatric medicine on John Bowlby’s development of the concept of ‘maternal deprivation’. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The mental health sector and the social sciences in post-World War II USA. Part 1: Total war and its aftermath,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,

This paper examines the impact of World War II and its aftermath on the mental health sector, and traces the resulting transformations in US psychiatry and psychology. Focusing on the years between 1940 and 1970, it analyses the growing federal role in funding training and research in the mental health sector, the dominance of psychoanalysis within psychiatry in these years, and the parallel changes that occurred in both academic and clinical psychology.

“From social pathologies to individual psyches: Psychiatry navigating socio-political currents in 20th-century Latvia,” by Agita Lûse. The abstract reads,

The paper explores psychiatry’s responses to the twentieth-century socio-political currents in Latvia by focusing on social objectives, clinical ideologies, and institutional contexts of Soviet mental health care. The tradition of German biological psychiatry in which Baltic psychiatrists had been trained blended well with the materialistic monism of Soviet psychoneurology. Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychiatry

Asylum History Myth-Busting

The most recent newsletter of The Society for General Psychology (Division 1 of the American Psychological Association) features a short article dispelling some of the common myths surrounding asylum history. Authored by Jennifer Bazar, a graduate student in the History and Theory of psychology program at York University, the piece addresses the follow three myths of asylum history:

Myth 1: Men were institutionalized more frequently than women [I have also heard the reverse].

Myth 2: Asylums were “dumping grounds” or “warehouses” for those labelled as insane (and the poor, the feeble-minded, etc).

Myth 3: Electro-shock (today: electro-convulsive therapy) was a popular form of treatment.

Bazar also chronicles her asylum research on her blog Field Notes.

The full Society for General Psychology newsletter, including “Asylum History Myth-Busting” (p. 34-35),  can be downloaded here.

“From Cure to Custodianship”

The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just released its January 2010 issue online. Included in this issue is an article by Fulbright scholar Lawrence B. Goodheart. In “From Cure to Custodianship of the Insane Poor in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut” Goodheart provides an account of life at the Hospital for the insane at Middletown, Connecticut (pictured above). Connecticut, Goodheart argues, was the exception among Northeastern states in that it did not open a public institution for the insane until the latter half of the nineteenth century. In documenting the institution’s history Goodheart, examines how initiatives meant to cure individuals and return them to society in a timely manner failed. Rather, custodianship became the norm. The abstract to this article reads:

Connecticut was the exception among the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic states in not founding a public institution for the insane until after the Civil War when it opened the Hospital for the Insane at Middletown in 1868, a facility previously neglected by scholars. The state had relied on the expedient of subsidizing the impoverished at the private Hartford Retreat for the Insane that overtaxed that institution and left hundreds untreated. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, well meaning officials oversold the idea that the Middletown site would promote cures and be cost effective. Continue reading “From Cure to Custodianship”