Museum to open at former San Bernardino insane asylum

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The public soon will be able to peek inside the place once known as the Highland Insane Asylum in San Bernardino.

From the outside, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino is shrouded in mystery. But soon, the public will be able to peek inside the place once known as the Highland Insane Asylum.

The hospital is planning to open a museum to show the evolution of more than 100 years of treatment.

"I was naturally curious about the hospital, walking the grounds, seeing these old buildings. I wondered about the stories of Patton," said Anthony Ortega, a Patton clinical social worker and historian who came up with the idea for the museum.

More than 140 artifacts will be featured, including controversial items, such as a transorbital lobotomy pick, an instrument used on 230 patients at the hospital before it was discontinued.

"They are pretty rare now. They are hard to find. You can imagine, because of how controversial the treatment was," said Shannon Long, a graduate of museum studies at Cal State San Bernardino.

Visitors will also find shock therapy machines, hydrotherapy tubs, early surgical instruments and photographs, including one of the original building before it was demolished.

One exhibit reveals how the patients and staff worked together to create a community.

"They grew all their food made all their furniture and made all their clothing," Ortega said.

Each item examines the hospitals 122-year history of psychiatry and treatment of mental illnesses.

"That's part of why we did this museum, to show the folks how the evolution and changes in psychiatry have gone over the years," Ortega said.

At its peak, Patton's patient population grew to more 5,000. Today, the hospital treats nearly 1,500 patients, most of them referred by criminal court orders.

Public tours are scheduled to begin in June. For those interested in touring the museum, call (909) 425-7687 or email pshmuseum@dsh.ca.gov.

Related Topics:
societymental healthmuseumsmuseum exhibitSan BernardinoSan Bernardino County
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