Unless otherwise marked, all exhibits are included as part of the standard museum tour (the Old Pathology Building)

November 4, 2015 - TBD

Autopsy Room, Old Pathology Building (IMHM)

Central State Time Capsule

A time capsule dating from 1958 was found in the cornerstone of the Bahr Treatment Center on the former Central State Hospital Grounds this summer. This display features some of its contents, including photos, newspapers, and building plans.

Here are some links to news coverage about the time capsule.

Indy Star online article and Photo gallery 

WTHR TV coverage and Online article


April 11, 2017 – May 14, 2017

**At the Central Branch, Indianapolis Public Library**

Indiana: Intersections of Mass Incarceration and Mental Illness

In the early 1800s, Americans opened hospitals to care for people with mental illness, removing patients from their communities for treatment into often overcrowded hospital wards. Indiana’s first mental hospital, Central State, opened in 1848. This facility’s 1994 closure was part of a nationwide process called deinstitutionalization that began in the 1960s. Policy makers, politicians, and psychiatrists worked intensively to create community-based mental health care. However in Indiana, like most of the country, these facilities were inadequate to the need.

Today, encounters between people with mental illness and law enforcement result in more people with mental illness receiving care in correctional facilities than in state hospitals. The stress and isolation of incarceration often causes people’s mental health to deteriorate. Policies including mental health courts, which Indianapolis advocates pioneered, divert people with mental illness from correctional facilities. Improving conditions in prisons and jails and providing treatment upon release could break the cycle.

Find out more about States of Incarceration online

This exhibit is part of the Humanities Action Lab's nationwide States of Incarceration Project, and was designed by students at Indiana University, Purdue University, Indianapolis, in partnership with the Indiana Medical History Museum and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Nov 10, 2016- March 31, 2017

Leaving Home

Upstairs Hall, Old Pathology Building (IMHM)

Built in the 1840s to treat people diagnosed with mental illness, Indiana’s Central State Hospital closed in 1994 after a spate of scandals regarding patient neglect. “Leaving Home” explores the hospital’s final years (1988-1994) through two patient-produced newsletters, The DDU Review and The Local Bahr. These sources provide a rich narrative guide to patients’ lives at Central State during the era of deinstitutionalization.

This exhibit is part of the Voices from Central State project.

Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star

December 6, 2015-TBD

Anatomical Museum

Fighting the Deadliest Killer: The National Tuberculosis Association's Christmas Seal Campaign, 1907-1968

Tuberculosis, or "consumption", was humanity's number one killer through history. During the first half of the 20th century, a massive public health campaign was conducted by the National Tuberculosis Association, whose cornerstone fundraising mechanism was the annual Christmas Seal campaign. 

This exhibit features NTA seals and associated propaganda used to combat TB both nationally and in Indiana

November 8, 2015 - November 20, 2015

Second Floor Hall

Visual Dream Journals

On November 8, as part of the Spirit & Place Festival, we will be hosting a discussion on the Science of Sleep. This occasion also marks the opening of an exhibit, featuring artwork created by members of the Indiana Art Therapy Association as part of a summer-long visual dream journaling project.

September 3, 2015-November 28, 2015 

Anatomical Museum

Lobotomy: Intentions, Procedures, Effects

For most of us, the idea of lobotomy triggers revulsion. But what were the intentions behind it? Why did it become such a widespread psychiatric treatment in the mid-20th century? This exhibit explores the history of lobotomy and features a skull and leucotome that model the transorbital lobotomy procedure. 

Find out more about the history of the lobotomy online

August 6, 2015-October 31, 2015

Second Floor Hall

Eight Decades of Leading the Way for Kids: The History of The Social Health Association of Indiana 

This exhibit explores the history of the Social Health Association in Indiana, beginning with its origins as the Anti-Syphilis League and highlighting its leadership role in sex education through the twentieth century until today.

May 3, 2014- September 3, 2014

The Heart of Healthcare: Professionalization of Nursing in Indiana

In the early 19th century, women in Indiana had little or no opportunities for formal education and training, and most worked as homemakers and farmers in their own families.  Nursing care for the sick was also a family matter, provided primarily by untrained family members.  Care for the poor was inferior or nonexistent.  Growing populations, epidemics of disease, and injuries and diseases affecting soldiers during the Civil War made the need for formally trained nurses in Indiana all too clear.  Training for nurses was first made available by religious and women's organizations, and later by hospital schools of nursing across the state.  Using photographs and documents from the collections of the Indiana State Archives and objects from the collections of the Indiana Medical History Museum, this exhibit explores the history of nursing education in Indiana. The exhibit will be located in the upstairs hallway, and is included in the one-hour tour.


January 28th through April 7, 2012

IMHM Medicinal Plant Garden (Exhibit)

Immerse yourself in springtime and learn about traditional medicinal plants from the Indiana Medical History Museum's Medicinal Plant Garden.


Friday, May 20 through Saturday, October 8, 2011

Civil War Medicine Exhibit


 Friday, February 4 through Saturday, April 9, 2011  

Rustic Remedies:  Cures from Granny's Garden

This exhibit highlights a few of the many medicinal plants that were available in Pioneer Indiana.  Learn more about these plants and their uses, and get a preview of the museum's own Medicinal Garden which is lovingly maintained by IMHM board member Kathleen Hull, M.D. and the Purdue Master Gardeners of Marion County.


 Friday, November 12, 2010 - Saturday, January 29, 2011   

Food Fight!  Dr. John Hurty’s Battle for Public Health & the Indiana Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1899

This exhibit corresponds to our Spirit & Place Festival event. 

Dr. John Hurty, Indiana State Health Commissioner (1896-1922), wrote the first comprehensive state food and drug law in the nation, which passed in 1899.  This exhibit will feature drawings commissioned by John Hurty for use in public health pamphlets and posters.  Several of these works were created by Richmond, Indiana native Gaar Williams, a political cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star and the Chicago Tribune.


Wednesday, October 13 - Saturday, November 6, 2010

Analysis & Deduction:  The History of Forensic Criminology

 Explore the history of how advancements in scientific knowledge have been used to identify remains, track down criminals, and solve crimes, including collection and analysis of fingerprints, documentation of crime scenes, estimating time of death, use of toxicology, and more!  Also compare the real science of forensic criminology to the fictional investigations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's well-known character, Sherlock Holmes.


Wednesday, August 4 – Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Zwara

 Austrian-born water color painter, John Zwara, came to Indianapolis around 1933. Zwara spent several years living on the streets of the city, selling his artwork in order to buy more painting supplies. A friend of Zwara’s, Alexander Vonnegut, recognized that he needed psychiatric help and had him committed to Central State Hospital in 1938. There he was diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia.) Zwara spent six months at the hospital before his escape. He died a pauper in 1951. This exhibit will feature many of his works that were completed at Central State and will also highlight what little is known of his fascinating life.


Friday, June 5 – Saturday, July 31, 2010

Resurrectionists:  Body Snatching in Indiana

This exhibit was developed by the Indiana State Archives.

Explore the history of grave robbing in Indiana while learning new research skills from the Indiana State Archives!

 In 1902, a series of grave robbings in Indianapolis prompted Detectives Adolph Asch and Chauncey Manning to begin an investigation of these mysterious disappearances. Their discovery and the media coverage that followed, led to the arrests of Rufus Cantrell, his “Gang of Ghouls,” and a number of Indianapolis physicians. It also led to the establishment of the State Anatomical Board and the Indiana State Anatomical Education Program, whose aim is to “ensure the quality of education for medical, dental, allied health students.”


Wednesday April 7 – Saturday, May 29, 2010         

Great Apes:  The Biology & Culture of Our Closest Relatives

Apes are arguably the most recognizable animal in the world and are often in the top three attractions in zoos that keep them.  But they are also often misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture.  In their best light, they are often depicted comically, wearing clothing, smoking cigars, or mimicking human beings in other ways.  At the other end of the spectrum, apes are often portrayed as violent and blood thirsty.  In reality, apes are complex, resourceful, social animals.  They are closely related to us and yet very different. 

By learning about their biology, culture, and behavior, we can develop a better understanding and appreciation for these incredible animals who share 95 to 98% of their DNA with us and get a unique insight into our own biology, culture, and behaviors.


Wednesday, January 20 through Saturday, April 3, 2010                                                        

Rustic Remedies:  Cures from Granny's Garden

This exhibit highlights a few of the many medicinal plants that were available in Pioneer Indiana.  Learn more about these plants and their uses, and get a preview of the museum's own Medicinal Garden which is lovingly maintained by IMHM board member Kathleen Hull, M.D. and the Purdue Master Gardeners of Marion County.


Friday, November 6, 2009 through Saturday, January 15th, 2010

Temples of the Future: Laboratories of the 19th Century

The title is taken from Louis Pasteur’s 1878 statement: "Take interest… in those sacred dwellings called laboratories. Demand that they be multiplied…these are the temples of the future, temples of well-being and of happiness. There it is that humanity grows greater, stronger, better.” The exhibit will focus on the Old Pathology Building and other laboratories in the nation that were established around the same time; places that were created in the spirit of improving lives everywhere.


September 2- October 17, 2009

Disease & Tyranny: the Muncie Smallpox Epidemic of 1893

This exhibit is free with regular museum admission.
This exhibit about the Muncie, Indiana Smallpox Epidemic of 1892 was developed with the help of Kelly Hacker Jones, who received her masters degree in history at Ball State University and wrote a thesis on the same topic, entitled Vaccination: Who Should Decide When Doctors Disagree.


March 2-April 2, 2008

Talking Heads: Coaxing Information from the Skull

This exhibit is free with regular admission.
This new exhibit focuses on examinations of the skull in medicine and anthropology, from obsolete notions to cutting edge research using novel technologies to gain new knowledge. The exhibit will also give examples of the skull in art and popular culture.
The opening program will feature Dr. Richard Ward, Professor of Anthropology and Dentistry at IUPUI, who will speak at 4pm on Sunday, March 2nd.

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