The award-winning Glore Psychiatric Museum chronicles the 130-year history of the state hospital and centuries of mental health treatment.The museum is located on the adjoining grounds of the original state hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri. The Glore Psychiatric Museum certainly offers a unique trip back into history and is recognized as one of the 50 most unusual museums in the U.S. The museum’s address is 3406 Frederick Avenue, Saint Joseph, MO.
Establishing the Glore Psychiatric Museum
The Glore Psychiatric Museum was started in 1968 in an abandoned ward of the St. Joseph State Hospital by George Glore. Glore had been collecting historical psychiatric treatment devices as well as interesting items made by the actual patients of the hospital for over four decades.
The current collection includes interactive and audio-visual displays. Also, department store mannequins strapped into various psychiatric devices of the era. If this isn’t enough, there is an artistic display of 1,466 inedible items — safety pins, screws, nails, buttons bottle caps that were removed from the digestive tract of a former St. Joseph State Hospital patient.
There’s also the story about a patient who swallowed a Timex clock and when the item was passed it was still ticking. Permanent displays at the museum cover about 400 years of psychiatric history.
The hospital asylum had a working farm and farming equipment used in that period is on display. A work program was in place as a key therapy for patients. In addition to the working farm, a sewing room was in place, a car restoration project was begun, a rug weaving program produced rugs used throughout the hospital and several others programs were established.
Also you’ll view original hospital furnishings and various surgical equipment. Some of the permanent displays also include the Bath of Surprise; O’Halloran’s Swing; the Tranquilizer Chair; and the Hollow Wheel. It’s been said that patients could spend up to six months in the tranquilizer chair.
The museum is named for its founder George Glore, who spent most of his 41-year career with the Missouri Department of Mental Health. His work with mental health patients sparked his interest in the history and treatment of mental illness. His collection of museum artifacts is one of the largest exhibitions devoted to the evolution of mental health care in the United States. The museum fills four floors.
The original Glore collection featured full size replica exhibits of 16th, 17th and 18th century “treatment” devices that very much resemble the torture devices used during the same period. George Glore created these exhibits for a mental health awareness week celebration. The exhibits were received well by the general public and Glore was urged by his superiors to expand the exhibit. After additional mental illness treatment items were added the museum came into being.
In 1997 the museum was relocated from the original Lunatic Asylum No.2 to it’s current location when the asylum campus was converted to a correctional facility. The museum is outside the prison fence in a group of brick buildings.
George Glore passed away in 2010. The museum is no longer affiliated with the State of Missouri but is part of the St. Joseph Museum. As of this writing the museum hours are M-Sat 10A-5P, Sun. 1-5P. The Glore Psychiatric Museum phone number is 816-364-1209.
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The Original State Lunatic Asylum No. 2
Is the museum worth a visit? We certainly think so.The Glore Psychiatric Museum highlights the ways patients were treated in the old days and presents a glimpse of psychiatric history.
This is in many ways similar to the story of turn of the century medical devices that claimed to heal a variety of illnesses and aches and pains. Many of these were electrical in nature. The harnessing of electricity in the late 1800’s opened the door for quacks to make what seems today outrageous claims for healing.
The original ‘State Lunatic Asylum No. 2, by approval of the Missouri State assembly, opened in November of 1874 with 25 patients on land located east of the City of St. Joseph. At first there was added 120 beds which eventually grew to 350. As mentioned above, the asylum eventually became a prison and the present day museum was relocated adjacent to it.
The name of the asylum was changed in 1903 to the State Hospital No. 2. In 1952 it was renamed the St. Joseph State Hospital.
Visiting the Glore Psychiatric Museum
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Glore Psychiatric Museum is a very unique venue. There’s four floors of exhibits that give the visitor a real good feel for the progression of psychiatric treatment prior to the introduction of the powerful medicines of today.
If your travels take you to St. Joseph Missouri, you may want to take the time to visit what is one of the most unique museums found anywhere in the country. St. Joseph is located about 57 miles north of Kansas City Missouri and about 135 miles southeast of Omaha Nebraska.
(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)