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Hi, my name is Alison and I’m spending ten weeks at the Powerhouse as a museum studies intern. While this medicine chest tells us many things about pharmaceutical history and 19th century illnesses, it can also be studied from a social history perspective. Upon purchase, the medicine chest may have resided in either London or Yorkshire in the Bailey family residence before being packed upon a sailing ship to the colonies! I now suspect the medicine chest was brought to Australia by Robert Dudley Stuart Bailey, who married Anne Australia Woods in Manly in 1887.
In conversation with the donor’s son, he told me the Dean farm was not large and not far from town. Sometime in the early to mid 1900s, the donor, Mr DH Dougan, visited John Alexander Dean on his property just outside Gulgong. The chest also became a source of wonder for me as I undertook this research and tried to piece together its history. AboutThe Powerhouse Museum has a unique and diverse collection of over 500,000 objects that spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport, and space exploration.
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Last month marked 241 years since America’s first public mental hospital opened in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds took in its first patient on Oct. Doctors also believed a certain amount of intimidation would convince patients to change their behavior. That step forward was advocated by Virginia Royal Governor Francis Fauquier, who spent years pushing for the establishment of a publicly owned hospital where the mentally ill could be housed and treated. The speech occurred during the lead up to the Revolutionary War, so most of Fauquier’s text dealt with the turmoil caused by clashes over taxes and the need for reconciliation between England and her colonies.


This development eased the burden of care that, up until then, had been shouldered by families or the local parish. The were 24 cells in the original two-story brick building, along with the keeper’s quarters and a meeting room for the board of directors.
The cells had a heavy door with a barred window that looked onto the central corridor, a straw-filled mattress and a chamber pot. Utica cribs were used to restrain out-of-control patients and were often stacked one on top of the other with the patients in them. Restraints were used less often and some patients were even allowed to take carriage rides into town.
By the 1880s, the hospital had grown, and there were 450 patients and 10 structures on the property. Eventually renamed the Eastern State Mental Hospital, the facility was rebuilt after it burned down in the late 1800s. Today, visitors can wander into the recreated cells and see the actual tools and devices that were used to treat patients.
The tranquilizer chair was considered to be a step forward in the treatment of the insane because violent patients were only placed in the restraining device for a limited time. Zwelling was strapped into the restraining chair once and was surprised by his reaction to it.
Today, Eastern State Hospital continues that tradition, which was established in Colonial America even before the United States became a nation. Should you ever wish to write a book, I think you have found an excellent topic concerning the social history of our care of those with disordered minds (itself a marvelous expression).
The large majority of these objects never get to be on public display, but carry with them interesting, humorous, and fascinating stories.
Some believe Fauquier’s use of the same speech to call for a public hospital to incarcerate people deprived of reason was a veiled warning to agitators against the Crown.


Scarificators (center) were bloodletting tools with a spring-loaded mechanism that snapped the blades out through slits to pierce the skin. Wall chains were attached to the patient’s leg or wrist to prevent escape and also as a form of therapy. The new approach emphasized firm but kind encouragement to induce patients to change their behaviors. The hospital offers community-focused treatment in two patient care buildings set on 500 acres, where a staff of over 900 cares for 300 patients.
Enthusiasts of technical and medical instruments , nautical instruments , globes and planetariums , mercury barometers, anatomical models , and pharmacy items are ensured to have a great day at Van Leest Antiques in Utrecht. This blog will introduce you to some of the Powerhouse Curators, Registrars and Conservators, their favourite objects, and the stories behind them. Emetics induced vomiting, laxatives caused an evacuation of the bowels, and laudanum, an opium extract, had a calming effect on patients. A vegetable garden and wood yard on the grounds offered work opportunities for male patients. In 1972, archaeologists excavated the hospital’s original foundations, which still bore signs from the great fire of 1885. He believed madness was an arterial disease and ordered treatments such as laxatives, hot and cold showers, and bloodletting, all aimed at affecting blood circulation. Van Leest regularly attends trade fairs, auctions and dealers in Europe to collect new products.



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