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Longcliff Museum holding second open house Wednesday

Pharos-Tribune - 5/21/2019

May 21-- May 21--At its peak in the early 1900s, the Logansport State Hospital was a self-sufficient facility. The campus was home to an award-winning dairy and an active farm where the patients worked and helped raise their own food and vegetables. At one point in its history, the facility housed more than 2,500 patients.

In recognition of those memories and of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Logansport State Hospital will open the Longcliff Museum to the public on Wednesday from 5-8 p.m.

The community is invited to view historical items spanning the psychiatric facility's 130-year presence along the banks of the Wabash River. The museum, located in the former administration building of the hospital, is staffed by volunteers interested in preserving the hospital's legacy of treating citizens with mental health disorders.

Indiana's oldest operating mental health hospital, the two floors of exhibits at the Longcliff Museum offer a fascinating glimpse into patient life and treatment from 1888 to today.

"For over 130 years, the Logansport State Hospital has provided care to thousands of Hoosiers," said Mike Busch, director of community engagement. "It is with respect to our patients and our employees, past and present, that we share this history with the public."

Founded in 1888 as the Northern Indiana Hospital for the Insane, the facility was built on 281 acres to accommodate 366 patients. Its name was changed to Logansport State Hospital in 1927. During the fiscal year of 1953-1954, the hospital reached its largest capacity -- 2,558 patients. Busch said the hospital's current patient population is less than 140.

Historical items and documents are displayed in over a dozen rooms, complementing the furniture, medical equipment, clothing and supplies displayed throughout the building.

Brian Newell, librarian at the State Hospital for more than two decades, said it's important to maintain the museum "to honor the people who have worked here in the past and our history." Newell also serves as the Longcliff Museum Committee Chairperson.

Photographs line the walls of the museum -- from the black-and-white pictures of the nursing classes that studied at the hospital to the artwork created by the patients who lived there.

In the lobby of the museum is a display dedicated to Dr. Joseph G. Rogers' championed practice of "rocking chair therapy." Rogers was the hospital's first superintendent from 1888 to 1908.

Up until the advent of psychiatric medications, rocking chair therapy was a commonly used technique to treat mental health disorders. Busch said that to him, the rocking chair is an illustration that tells the whole story of just how far medication has come over the years.

"Before the advent of psychiatric medications, all we could do was treat the symptoms," Busch said. "With the advent of psychiatric medications in the 40s, 50s and 60s that all changed. Now we can treat the illness and not just the symptoms. But up until then, it used to be if somebody was acting up you'd go sit and rock them -- it worked."

One exhibit showcases the hospital's former provision of electroconvulsive therapy. A mannequin lies on a table wearing electrodes on its temples connected to a machine covered in switches, dials and meters. A log rests nearby indicating more than 750 patients received the treatment in 1959 and 1960.

A three-dimensional display of the way the campus grounds appeared in the 1970s stretches across one of the museum's rooms. The hospital's former greenhouses are visible within the glass case -- a reminder of the agricultural operation the hospital once hosted.

Farming continued at the hospital until the late 1960s, when it was terminated due to amendments made to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would have required patients to be paid for the form of work therapy.

Named after the extensive bluff the hospital stands on, the Longcliff Museum opened in the hospital's pathology building in 1999. Because of repairs required in the pathology building, staff started moving the exhibitions in late 2014 to the administrative building, which has been in continuous use since 1888.

Longcliff Museum is inviting the public to their "Night at the Museum" open house from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22. The hospital is located at 1098 Old Ind. 25, Logansport. Admission is free and donations for patients will be accepted both evenings. Current patient needs include men's and women's deodorant and UNO and SkipBo card games.

Reach Quentin Blount at or 574-732-5130.


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