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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Kirkbride’

  • contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

I’d like to revisit what the CCHP can offer to remote users, especially instructors, during these bizarro times in which we are living. I’m being ambitious and making this a series of blog posts. First up, the asylum reports.

A few months ago I wrote an invited column for The General Psychologist, the newsletter for the Society for General Psychology (APA Division 1) titled, “Primary Sources in the Classroom: Project Ideas for Investigating Mental Health Care in the United States Through Digitized Asylum Reports.”

You can read my Division 1 column for numerous project ideas using our Cushing Memorial Library Collection of Asylum Reports. Remember, our asylum reports are digitized and available as full-text, word-searchable PDFs in our online repository. You can take away some ideas from that column or you can work on creating your own projects. Maybe you’re just bored and want to research asylum reports for the heck of it – do it!

All that being said, I’d like to introduce a specific project and provide some resources and ideas for how you can make it work with your students.

Asylums and epidemic diseases

We are living through a global pandemic right now but disease and illness in the enclosed, often overcrowded spaces of asylums was common. I did word searches for keywords like pandemic, epidemic, influenza, small pox, cholera, and a few others. I went through my hits and decided to focus on two specific asylums – Topeka State Hospital in Kansas (1915, 1919, 1923) and the Government Hospital for the Insane, also known as St. Elizabeth’s, in Washington, DC (1914, 1921, 1926). I took the date of the reports in my searching into account and selected reports before and after the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Topeka State Hospital, 1919

You can access the reports through the links above. You can also access the reports in a shared OneDrive folder here. Download the PDFs from either location and get to work!

Reports typically provide statistics, including physical illness and death, about the patients in their care so that is a great place to start.

Identify epidemic diseases (influenza, small pox, typhoid, etc.) in the reports. Look for how many patients contracted one of those diseases and how many died from it. Compare the data from one report to the next. What changed during the years in between? Did the population of patients increase or decrease? Did the illnesses within the asylum mirror what was happening outside of the asylum? Did vaccinations increase? Were they vaccinating? Did vaccinations for the disease in question even exist?

If a report specifically mentions the 1918 Influenza Pandemic – what does it say? How widespread was influenza within the asylum? How did it compare to the illness outside the asylum? What steps were taken to mitigate the spread of disease? Were staff affected?

Both Topeka State Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s were designed according to the Kirkbride Plan – an architectural design that included numerous wings for patients and patient activities. This design may have provided less opportunity for distancing as compared to another asylum style known as the Cottage Plan. Have your students do a bit of research on these two design styles in order to determine the pros and cons of each during an epidemic.

If you are digging any of these ideas and would like to work together to create something a bit more concrete for use in your class please reach out to me directly – lizette@uakron.edu. I’m happy to help.

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-contributed by student assistant Anthony Pankuch.

The complete Cushing Memorial Library Collection of Asylum Reports is now available through the Cummings Center online database. The collection includes over 400 reports from asylums throughout 32 U.S. states and dating back to as early as 1832. These reports are open to the public and viewable in their entirety.

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Reports cover asylums across 32 states, reflecting treatment practices in all regions of the United States.

These reports contain financial records, floor plans, patient intake statistics, and day-to-day details from asylums throughout the nation. They provide information on the historic classifications of diseases and their treatment, from melancholy to mania to nostalgia. They are a vital resource for scholars of institutional care throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as for anyone with an interest in the history of psychology, psychiatry, and medicine.

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Many reports include illustrations of the interiors and exteriors of these institutions, along with floor plans and architectural information.

Of particular interest are the reports of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, which were written by the noted physician Dr. Thomas Kirkbride. Kirkbride was the founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (precursor to the modern American Psychiatric Association) and the creator of the “Kirkbride Plan” of asylum architecture. Kirkbride served as superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane from 1840 to 1883. The collection contains 18 reports from Kirkbride’s time as head of the institution.

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Reports include information on the primary staff members of institutions, patient statistics, and more.

The collection was donated as a permanent loan to the Cummings Center from the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M University, facilitated by Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. It was digitized and uploaded to the online database over the course of one year by student assistants Emma Grosjean and Anthony Pankuch. Excluded from the online database are several reports still in need of archival repair. Aside from these documents, the complete collection is now available for public access.

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