*Please note: The Old Pathology Building that houses the Indiana Medical History Museum is a historic building and, as such, may present certain risks and/or physical restrictions. Some floor seating is available for visitors with limited physical mobility, but these must be requested in advance by emailing Sarah at shalter@imhm.org. These are available on a first come, first served basis. We are working to make our historic amphitheater more accessible and safer, but all program attendees must read and accept the Ticket Agreement to acknowledge the risks posed by steep stairs, the lack of a railing, etc. Click here to view the Ticket Agreement.


Please join us as we unveil a new exhibit 

Rehumanizing the IMHM Specimen Collection

Tuesday, July 9th 

5 to 7pm

Refreshments will be served at this open house event. Drop in any time between 5 and 7pm to view the exhibit and read the human stories behind the IMHM specimen collection.

ABOUT THE PROJECT: In recent years, we at the Indiana Medical History Museum have worked to expand our focus beyond the science and technology, beyond the doctors and administrators who worked at Central State Hospital, and beyond the architecture of this incredible historic laboratory facility, to draw more attention to the patients themselves and their experiences at the hospital.

There is certainly stigma attached to mental illness today, but in the past this sometimes ran much deeper in society. Patients at Central State Hospital and others like it across the country were frequently ostracized by their families and communities. They were sometimes mistreated. They were isolated here from their families and even to some extent from each other within the hospital's grounds. Especially in the hospital's first century, they were marginalized, ignored, and hidden away in life, with few willing to speak up for them and no real voice of their own.

When permission was granted, autopsies were performed in the Pathological Department of the hospital on patients who passed away there. The doctors were studying physical causes of mental diseases to better understand them and develop more effective treatments. Many specimens were preserved for future research and as teaching aids for medical students and practicing physicians who came here to learn about the research being done. These specimens still reside here in the Anatomical Museum.

Since they were preserved, these specimens have been displayed with very clinical descriptions of tumors and lesions and other physical damage to the tissue. They highlighted the things that the pathologist at the time felt were important for medical students and physicians to know and recognize.

The stories the old labels tell are not human stories. They are stories of disease and disorder told from a very clinical perspective. There is certainly value in that, intellectually and scientifically. But they inadvertently take away the humanity of the individual represented. 

When the Old Pathology Building was a functioning laboratory with scientific goals, those labels made sense. But in 2019, as we celebrate our 50th year as a museum striving to serve the greater public, it is time to change this interpretation. We want them to be remembered in death for who they were and not for their tumor, their lesions, their traumatic brain injury, or their congenital defect.

We hope you will join us for this unveiling to learn more about the former patients of Central State Hospital as people. Who were they and what was their life like before institutionalization? What impact did their symptoms have on their daily lives? And how, given advancements in medicine and psychiatry, might their diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment be different today?

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