Tucked away in Indianapolis’ west side sits the Indiana Medical History Museum – an historical monument to late-Victorian era medical history. For history buffs of all ages, the Indiana Medical History Museum provides an excellent way to learn more about the history of medical science, pathology, and psychology.
The Indiana Medical History Museum resides in the ‘Old Pathology Building’ on the former grounds of the Central State Hospital. The Central State Hospital (known originally as the Indiana Hospital for the Insane) was a residential treatment facility for Hoosiers with severe mental illness. Opening in 1848, the hospital grew substantially over the latter-half of the 19th century and eventually covered over 160 acres.
In 1896, progressively-minded, scientifically grounded research physicians opened the Pathology Department Building (what we now call the Old Pathology Building) in order to conduct research into psychological diseases and to teach.
The word ‘insane’ fell out of use to describe patients with severe mental illness and accordingly, the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane shortened the name to Central State Hospital in 1926. However, the hospital remained a central location for Hoosiers needing constant care for mental illness all the way through the early 1990s.
Most of the old structures were torn down in the decades following the Second World War, with the exception of the Old Pathology Building (Pathology Department Building), which reopened as the Indiana Medical History Museum in 1969. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is the oldest intact, free standing pathological laboratory in the United States. The museum has been open to the public since 1984.
The Old Pathology Building housed several labs, a teaching amphitheater, a library, records room, and a photography room designed for the creation of slides and samples. Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane was run by George Edenharter from 1893 until 1923. Edenharter hired the architect Adolph Scherrer to design the Pathology Department Building.
Today, visitors are led through the two-story museum on a guided tour that features not only artifacts from the era, but detailed accounts of what took place at the facility. The museum’s central mission today is to “present the rich medical history of Indiana by preserving the Old Pathology Building, collecting medical artifacts, and providing exhibits, publications and programs.”
The museum offers hourly tours (for individuals and groups of 2-6) Thursdays through Saturdays, 10:00AM to 4:00PM. Tours begin on the hour.For groups of 7 or more, the museum offers group tours and tours by appointment on Wednesdays from 10:00AM – 4:00PM.
The museum does take a winter break around the holidays and is only open on Saturdays, or by appointments between December 9, 2017 and January 19, 2018.
All tours start exactly on the hour and last approximately 60 minutes, with the last tour starting at 3:00PM.
The cost of entry is: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for college students, $3 for all other students, and $5.50 for Boy Scouts.