Located in the original 1883 Kirkbride Building that once held the Oregon State Insane Asylum, The OSH Museum of Mental Health in Salem, Oregon preserves the artifacts and stories of those who worked and lived there during its 130 years of operation.

I've been wanting to visit the Museum of Mental Health ever since it opened in 2012.

I’ve been wanting to visit the Museum of Mental Health ever since it opened in 2012. It’s one of only a few around the world that are part of a still-functioning hospital.

xcxcx

The first OSH building in Salem was constructed in 1883 and influenced by the design principles of Thomas Kirkbride, MD, which were meant to facilitate effective psychiatric treatment according to knowledge at the time.  The original OSH Kirkbride building had wards for patients that extended symmetrically from a central administration area with small rooms for patient living quarters.

Nearly 100 years after it was built, the building was chosen as the location for the Academy Award-winning film, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the novel by Oregon author Ken Kesey.

Nearly 100 years after it was built, the building was chosen as the location for the Academy Award-winning film, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the novel by Oregon author Ken Kesey.

14853238_10154630597926484_4942073287256459733_o

In 2005, an architectural assessment of the facility determined that the site was unsafe. On August 8, 2006, the hospital was fined USD $10,200 for asbestos violations.

In 2005, an architectural assessment of the facility determined that the site was unsafe. Most of the dilapidated and asbestos filled main building was torn down and replaced starting in the fall of 2008. The impetus for overhauling the OSH Salem campus was to meet current standards in psychiatric treatment while facilitating new approaches to patient care. Care was once provided to patients within small living quarters. With such restricted space, staff could work with only a few patients at a time, and it was not easy to customize treatments. Unit-centered care also increased patients’ sense of isolation.

OSH clinicians had been considering how to improve patient care and were intrigued by the “treatment mall” approach. At User Group meetings for the project, they discussed how new facilities could support innovative ways to interact with patients. As a result, a plan specific to OSH began to emerge. This new vision of mental healthcare emphasized normalization, self-determination and reintegration into society. Patients would be encouraged to participate actively in their recovery and to gain practical skills necessary once they left the hospital.

OSH clinicians had been considering how to improve patient care and were intrigued by the “treatment mall” approach. At User Group meetings for the project, they discussed how new facilities could support innovative ways to interact with patients. As a result, a plan specific to OSH began to emerge. This new vision of mental healthcare emphasized normalization, self-determination and reintegration into society. Patients would be encouraged to participate actively in their recovery and to gain practical skills necessary once they left the hospital.

2,500 square-foot exhibit space, operated by a non-profit organization in the original Asylum facility,

The 2,500 square-foot museum is operated by a non-profit organization and is located within the original Asylum facility.

It includes history about many of the discontinued practices that are no longer considered proper treatment for mental illnesses as well as updates on current practices.

The museum includes permanent and changing exhibits located throughout multiple rooms and touches upon the history about many of the discontinued practices that are no longer considered proper treatment for mental illnesses as well as updates on current practices.

dsc00374

When plans to replace the old hospital were announced several years ago, Patton said she and others got into the network of tunnels that ran beneath the old buildings and realized there were thousands of artifacts squirreled away.

When plans to replace the old hospital were first announced, current and former members of the hospital staff got into the network of tunnels that ran beneath the old buildings and realized there were thousands of artifacts stashed away.

14570819_10154630597586484_6200425138324820043_o 14681060_10154630597011484_2005933143857185558_o 14633556_10154630596721484_8801655957646890869_o

visitors will get the unvarnished story of life at one of the nation's most notorious mental health institutions.

Much like the museum found at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, CA, visitors at OSH get an unvarnished story of life at one of the nation’s most notorious mental health institutions. The museum also spotlights how treatments changed over time. Early on, “moral treatment” emphasized “a wholesome environment and moral influence of staff.” Later, treatment got physical. A straitjacket, handcuffs, leather restraints and an “electroconvulsive therapy” machine are all displayed.

14560210_10154630595561484_185787948339821471_o

14753224_10154630589651484_1077436063691237786_o14524590_10154630590086484_6947721000738680588_o14706931_10154630589206484_501164865089164122_o14724374_10154630588261484_866409221531247356_n14712817_10154630590886484_168046291416507981_o

Displays documents, photographs and recordings that share the stories of the people who have lived and worked in the hospital.

Displays including documents, photographs and recordings, help tell the stories of the people who once lived and worked in the hospital.

14615693_10154630601836484_1573478787287712027_o14753813_10154630600756484_2515256924749740023_o14589790_10154630602291484_6348147986391123745_o14715676_10154630601361484_1260910288910507030_o14570640_10154630602906484_3552098578234605796_o14856132_10154630603431484_5829420069601753718_o14589936_10154630587206484_5047076499465071770_o14608684_10154630597941484_1889617334027833740_o14572335_10154630601776484_4806282295715560361_n14556716_10154630586176484_783835403495466867_o14753342_10154630602201484_3874379469093046784_o14589680_10154630592456484_57011422077623359_o

A replica of one of the original patient rooms is featured in the Museum of Mental Health exhibit, as recommended by one of the former patients.

A dresser inside a replica of one of the original patient rooms.

An accidental mass poisoning occurred on November 18, 1942 when scrambled eggs were served for dinner. Within minutes people got stomach cramps, leg cramps, started to vomit, and got respiratory difficulties. Overall, 467 people got sick and 47 people died. Forensic examination determined that the poisoning was due to a mix-up in the kitchen. Instead of flour sodium fluoride, a poison to kill cockroaches, had been used in the cooking process.

An accidental mass poisoning occurred on November 18, 1942 when scrambled eggs were served for dinner.

Within minutes people got stomach cramps, leg cramps, started to vomit, and had respiratory difficulties.

Within minutes people got stomach cramps, leg cramps, started to vomit, and had respiratory difficulties.

Overall, 467 people got sick and 47 people died. Forensic examination determined that the poisoning was due to a mix-up in the kitchen. Instead of flour sodium fluoride, a poison to kill cockroaches, had been used in the cooking process.

In the end, 467 people got sick and 47 people died. Forensic examination determined that the poisoning was due to a mix-up in the kitchen. Instead of flour sodium fluoride, a poison to kill cockroaches, had been used in the cooking process. Oops, sorry.

14714870_10154630590291484_3364661770320958906_o

Not ever

While treatment at the hospital in the early years might not have been perfect, some programs were actually shown to be beneficial to the patients who participated in them. Such was the case with the hospitals Wilderness Program.

s

14715679_10154630591181484_2322039114599655419_o

aaa

Art…

...along with musical therapy, also

…and music therapy…

s

…also proved to be therapeutic to those patients who participated in the programs.

Dean Brooks probably knows more about the Oregon State Hospital than anyone else. He was the Superintendent of the Salem mental institution for more than 25 years.

Dr. Dean Brooks probably knows more about the Oregon State Hospital than anyone else. He was the Superintendent of the Salem mental institution for more than 25 years and put it on the map forever when he allowed the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on the hospital grounds.

he decision to open the hospital’s doors to Hollywood drew criticism. Brooks says other mental health professionals blasted him, saying that, "I had sold psychiatry down the river. That I had set us back 50 years."

His decision to open the hospital’s doors to Hollywood drew criticism from other mental health professionals who thought the movie would set their profession back 50 years.

The movie went on to win the 1976 Best Picture Oscar and a slew of other awards.

The movie went on to win the 1976 Best Picture Oscar and a slew of other awards. Academy Award winning actress Louise Fletcher, who played Nurse Ratched was even a featured guest at the grand opening of the museum back in 2012.

The hydrotherapy unit that Chief Bromden uses to break free in the movie's climactic scene,was just sitting in a hospital storage room collecting dust before

The hydrotherapy unit that Chief Bromden uses to break free in the movie’s climactic scene was just sitting in a hospital storage room collecting dust before being pulled out and put on display at the museum.

After visiting the museum, there was one more place I had to see.

After visiting the museum, there was one more place I had to see.

Located right next to the Kirkbride Building is a memorial like no other.

Located right next to the Kirkbride Building is a memorial like no other.

n 2004, Senate President Peter Courtney toured the Oregon State Hospital and discovered what would forever change the course of mental health treatment in Oregon. It all started with unlocking the door to what he later would call the “Room of Forgotten Souls.” Inside a small, non-descript hospital building, Senator Courtney discovered more than 3,500 copper urns stacked three deep on simple, pine shelves. - Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

In 2004, Senate President Peter Courtney toured the Oregon State Hospital and discovered what would forever change the course of mental health treatment in Oregon. It all started with unlocking the door to what he later would call the “Room of Forgotten Souls.” Inside a small, non-descript hospital building, Senator Courtney discovered more than 3,500 copper urns stacked three deep on simple, pine shelves.   – Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

He would later compare the treatment of the urns to the treatment of those with mental illness – neglected and forgotten – and led the charge to secure funding to replace the existing 128-year-old psychiatric hospital with two new hospitals and passed legislation that would allow the state to publish the names of individuals whose urns were in the custody of the Oregon State Hospital for the purposes of reunification and the construction of a memorial for any unclaimed remains. - Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

He would later compare the treatment of the urns to the treatment of those with mental illness – neglected and forgotten – and led the charge to secure funding to replace the existing 128-year-old psychiatric hospital with two new hospitals and passed legislation that would allow the state to publish the names of individuals whose urns were in the custody of the Oregon State Hospital for the purposes of reunification and the construction of a memorial for any unclaimed remains.  Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

The memorial is built within a relocated and restored 1896 structure known

The memorial is built within a relocated and restored 1896 structure known as Building 60, once the hospital pestilence house and morgue. The new courtyard recreates the footprint of a crematorium structure (Building 75) which was once attached to the brick building. A wire filigree sculpture highlights the former building’s walls and windows. The bench in this courtyard is also artist-made from a tree that stood here. From this courtyard, visitors can view 3,423 copper urns, stacked in sequential rows with empty spots for those that have been claimed by family members. The ashes from the copper urns were placed in new vessels handmade by the artists inside the memorial’s columbarium wall. The new garden around the memorial provides a tranquil atmosphere and a sense of private enclosure within the hospital grounds.   Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

A large window cut into the historic crematoria building communicates this long-hidden history and the story of institutional loss-of-individuality during past eras.

A large window cut into the historic crematoria building communicates this long-hidden history and the story of institutional loss-of-individuality during past eras. The project was done in an effort towards healing and closure.

The columbarium wall is made from sandblasted metal turned a soft matte from weather. The ashes from the copper urns were transferred into ceramic canisters and placed in the columbarium wall. The niche of each urn is engraved with a number, name and, if known, both birth and death dates. The urns were handmade by the artists during a three-month residency at the Kohler Company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. A single empty ceramic urn is visible in a corner of the courtyard to recognize the patients who were ordered exhumed from Asylum Cemetery and cremated, but whose where - abouts are unknown. * In years to come more families will come to claim their relatives. As each claim is made, the family takes home both the ceramic urn and the empty copper urn. Some have even chosen to let them rest in peace with the hope that others will continue to visit them here for generations to come. When the ceramic urns are removed they are replaced by a hollow brass tube that represents the increasing significance of reunited families. As the golden perforations increase the transparency of this once solid wall it is hoped that the evolving appearance communicates the gradual closure of this important piece of Oregon history.

The columbarium wall is made from sandblasted metal turned a soft matte from weather. The ashes from the copper urns were transferred into ceramic canisters and placed in the columbarium wall. The niche of each urn is engraved with a number, name and, if known, both birth and death dates. A single empty ceramic urn is visible in a corner of the courtyard to recognize the patients who were ordered exhumed from Asylum Cemetery and cremated, but whose whereabouts are unknown. In years to come more families will come to claim their relatives. As each claim is made, the family takes home both the ceramic urn and the empty copper urn. Some have even chosen to let them rest in peace with the hope that others will continue to visit them here for generations to come. When the ceramic urns are removed they are replaced by a hollow brass tube that represents the increasing significance of reunited families. As the golden perforations increase the transparency of this once solid wall it is hoped that the evolving appearance communicates the gradual closure of this important piece of Oregon history.  Oregon State Hospital Memorial Booklet

 

The Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health

2600 Center St NE, Salem, OR 97301

Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Adults $4, students and seniors $3.  Members always free.

https://oshmuseum.org/