Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Winnebago Mental Health Institute Museum

On the same bike ride when I was testing my cheerios cameras, I rode past the Winnebago Mental Health Institute Museum. I had actually been there once in the nineties as part of a Leadership Oshkosh Training Program. (Aren't I special?)

When I mentioned to Sarah that I had taken this photograph, she said she had never heard of it and so we went out there several days later.

One of my last posts on the late-lamented f295 forum was about a bike ride to Asylum Point, so-called for it's proximity to what was originally named the Northern State Hospital for the Insane.

It's been around since 1873.  It's a pretty modern up-to-date facility now, but this yard full of Adirondack chairs behind a ten-foot fence still lends an air of creepiness to the place.

The museum was the home of the superintendent of the hospital from the time the house was built in 1929 until sometime in the 1980's. The main living room of the house on the first floor includes a memorial to the original superintendent who is somewhat notable in Audio-Visual history.  He was the first one to stick thin brain sections in a projector for teaching and research purposes. The room also displays records about the nature of the patient population.  There was a list of occupations they came from during the last several decades of the 19th century which included two photographers.

This was a state bureaucracy and the porch on the side held a display of business machines that had been in use over the years. 
(I took statistics in 1968 in a lab full of mechanical calculators like this. There was one electronic calculator the size of a suitcase with two memory registers up near the faculty offices and I flunked one assignment for using it to store the sum of the squares and not writing down all the steps!)

As you ascend these elegant curved stairs to the second floor, there are portraits and bios of all the superintendents.


One of the upstairs rooms features medical equipment that had been used to treat the general health of the patients, and sometime to attempt to cure their mental afflictions, including the tools used for lobotomies.

Another upstairs room featured other less invasive therapies. Prominently featured in front of the window, was their most modern electroshock therapy machine, but there were also several other more vintage models nearby. I was a little surprised to hear this is something that is still done, although less indiscriminately and for a very narrow range of conditions. The room also featured displays about more benign practices like occupational and music therapy. Just to the left of the camera in the corner were a rather fancy accordion, and an empty guitar stand that normally held what we were told was a guitar built by one of the patients, but which was now on loan to the Historical Museum in Appleton for their current exhibit "Asylum: Out of the Shadows."

So we thought we should make the experience complete by going up there. The Appleton museum is in a former Masonic Lodge. Ironically, in a room with a rather disturbing exhibit about the experience of minorities in Appleton (home of Senator Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society) was this rather fanciful stained glass window depicting Chief Oshkosh cheerfully ceding his tribal lands to Governor Dodge.

Prominently featured in a display case in the Asylum exhibit was the guitar from Winnebago.  I think it might have just been the guide we had, but the museum in Oshkosh emphasized the benevolence of the hospital, the appreciation of the patients for the treatment they received, and the difficult life of the employees, but this exhibit was a little more grim.

The first monochrome image with a .28mm pinhole 45mm from 6x6mm frame.

All the others with The Populist. .15mm pinhole, 24mm from 24x36mm frame.


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