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Welcome to Asylum Projects,
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Mission Statement


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The Mission

The mission of this site is to archive both historical and current information on asylums across the United States and around the world.

The Statement

This site is dedicated to the history of asylums in all forms. The term of asylum is applied to not only what is commonly thought of: mental hospitals, but can also be applied to sanatoriums, state training schools, reform schools, almshouses, and orphanages. These institutions have and continue to play a major part in today's society.

Everyone throughout the United States and in many other countries has in one way or another felt the touch of these institutions. These places have both directly and indirectly affected people and their families. They have shaped lives and created many popular myths about them.

With all that in mind, this site was created to help in the historical research of any institutions that can be classified as an asylum. It was created for both serious researchers, those who are doing genealogical research, and people with an interest in asylums.

Featured Article Of The Week

Austin State Hospital


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Austin State Hospital was the first state facility of its kind built west of the Mississippi. In 1856, the governor of Texas signed a bill providing for the establishment of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum. Construction started in 1857, and the first patients were admitted in 1861. The facility was renamed the Austin State Hospital (ASH) in 1925.

Today, this original building serves as the administration building for a modern, innovative facility providing psychiatric care to a 38-county region in Central Texas. ASH admitted over 4400 patients in the fiscal year 2006, with about the same number of discharges, and has an average daily patient census of 292. The focus of treatment is stabilization of acute psychiatric illness and return to the community.

The old Texas State Lunatic Asylum, which now houses the administrative staff of the Austin State Hospital, is the third oldest standing public building our state. With its completion in 1861 in the lush countryside north of Austin, the hospital stood as a beacon of hope and tolerance for the treatment of the mentally ill.

The asylum movement in the United States and Europe reflected the belief that people recently diagnosed with mental ailments could regain their sanity in an idealized environment free from the stress of everyday life. Asylums strived to provide a healthy diet, exercise, fresh air, adequate rest, a strict daily routine, social contact, and a kind but firm approach. This humanitarian philosophy marked a vast leap forward from earlier theories that mental illness stemmed from demonic possession and proscribed treatments such as flogging and cold water to drive out the demons. Texas modeled its asylum after an innovative program developed in Philadelphia by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride. The Philadelphia maverick had pioneered new, progressive treatments for the mentally insane, including behavior modification, drug therapy and an unrestrictive environment. Click here for more...

Featured Image Of The Week

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"Here is corner of lobby of Women's Psychopathic Ward at San Antonio State Hospital. Nurse Edna Wilson stands by checker table. Pleasant rooms help mentally ill; were dreary at founding 50 years ago. The days of bedlam and the straitjacket are gone. To prove the fact, the San Antonio State Hospital will hold open house for interested visitors Tuesday in cooperation with National Hospital Day." Newspaper article from May, 1942. Courtesy University of Texas Archives.

Featured Video

The following fifteen minute video was created by Inside Story and Andrea Hall on the closing of Danvers State Hospital.

Recent Message Board Posts

Hello,

In this space you normally would see our forum. This had been a hold over from earlier days before we had a Facebook page. Just prior to our server issues regular users had been barely using the forum with the majority of new posts from anonymous users asking genealogy questions or spammers. The old forum software does not work with our new version while the new forum software does not carry over old comments to the new forum. As a result, the forum will be discontinued in favor of our Facebook page. If you have questions or comments you can ask them there.

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If you have genealogical question here is an information page to help you.