Asylum: Out of the Shadows


I had the day off on Friday and decided to take a trip up to Appleton for the afternoon. I met up with Molly and got lunch with her–she had to work. After, I made my way over to the History Museum at the Castle just up the street to check out the newest exhibit, Asylum: Out of the Shadows. This was an informative and interesting history of a local psychiatric care facility at the turn of the century.

The exhibit did a fantastic job of portraying life in the Outagamie County Asylum for the Insane for the residents and the roles of its staff played in care. It was interesting to see how “conditions” were diagnosed and treatment methods used throughout the facility’s century of operation. Not everyone that went in were incapable of carrying on a normal life. Some of the residents in the institution worked on the farm nearby to provide food for the facility.


The institution was meant to be a haven for those that needed long-term care for disorders, but dark facts showed what happened behind the walls of the institution. Physical abuse, scandal, untrained staff, food deprivation, and financial woes made life at the asylum hard for some. Early superintendents who oversaw the facility had no prior experience or knowledge of mental healthcare. These problems ushered in change to ensure that residents received the best care possible.


I looked forward to seeing this exhibit since it opened back in November. I think the current state of mental health treatment in our nation made this exhibit very relevant to the present. I was fascinated to learn where we have come in diagnoses and treatment of individuals with mental and behavioral disorders. I was also very impressed with the personal stories of the residents undergoing treatment there, which was a great touch that removed stigma and returned humanity to the residents.

What a great job the museum did to capture this topic and make it so interesting and informative! The museum also did a great job of making it interactive for visitors. Doors and drawers could be opened view images or read letters and books from the period. Bulletin boards allowed visitors to post their thoughts to questions posed to them. I highly recommend you take a trip to Appleton to check it out before it goes away in 2018. Make sure you download the app on your phone to listen to the stories of patients and staff! 

History Museum at the Castle

Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 4:00pm
History Museum at the Castle
330 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Adults $7.50
Children (5-17) $3.50
Seniors (65+) and Students w/ID $5.50
Under 5 Free
Families $20.00
Members Free

Have you visited the exhibit? What shocked you the most? What was your main takeaway from the exhibit?



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