In August, members of Learning Services and the myEvolv team visited the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Most of us had never heard of the place, and we were surprised to learn it was only an hour away from Netsmart’s Overland Park office. The museum has been in existence since the late 1960’s, and its purpose is to show the rocky evolution of mental health care; as George Glore said, “We really can’t have a good appreciation of the strides we’ve made if we don’t look at the atrocities of the past.”
Our tour began with a film that chronicled the history of how mental illness has been defined, re-defined, and treated (my favorite part featured the amazing city of Geel, Belgium). The film was a bit dated, but that only served to remind me that we’re living in an age where our perspective of mental illness is changing yet again, as we now, finally, in Western medicine, explore the ways in which our bodies, minds, and spirits are inextricably entwined. I can’t help but wonder what insights will be appended to that film for the next generation to see, and I feel so privileged to be part of a company that has positioned itself to lead the field in a rapidly changing and forward-thinking treatment landscape.
Television Diary exhibit. This is one of 525 papers stuffed into the back of a television set prior to 1971 by a patient who believed, among other things, that his knowledge was hidden in some railroad boxcars.
After the film, we wandered through four floors of exhibits. We learned about the history of the state hospital in which the museum started, viewed replicas of torturous treatment devices used around the world in the 16th – 18th centuries, and enjoyed beautifully haunting art made by the hospital’s patients.
A highlight of the tour was a traveling exhibit called Pillows of Unrest. Pillows of Unrest is a project created by clients currently receiving care at Fulton State Hospital in Fulton, Missouri. With white pillowcases and colored permanent markers, the artists have shared what they want the world to know about their individual struggles with mental illness and their hopes for the future.
Each distinct part of the museum is enough to prompt deep reflection, discussion, and a trip back. Any one of its signs, photographs, or displays has the power to adjust the lens through which you view mental illness. Taken as a whole, I can’t imagine anyone leaving the museum without an expanded awareness of past limitations and future possibilities, a renewed sense of compassion for those who suffer, and an even deeper commitment to continue pushing for advances in mental health care.
Internet reviewers have said the museum encourages a sense of deep gratitude for how far the world has come in its understanding of mental illness. And many have used these words to describe the place: fascinating, startling, amazing, informative, horrifying, respectful, memorable, depressing, rare, disturbing, unique, unsettling, surreal, mesmerizing, shocking, intense, eye-opening, intriguing, unforgettable, terrifying, a must-see, and a labor of love.
Visit this museum. Bring your friends, family members (but not the youngest ones), partners, and co-workers. The Glore Psychiatric Museum is a vital part of our global conversation about mental health.
Carol Hattrup – Technical Documentation Designer