With the little ones visiting my parents in Pittsburgh, my husband and I have been enjoying a little staycation here in Indy. This might sound odd, but the Indiana Medical History Museum (3045 W Vermont St Indianapolis) was the first place that came to mind when putting together our itinerary. I’ve wanted to see if for a while now, but knew it wouldn’t be very interesting for my 5 and 2-year-old (it’s more suited for older kids who know the meaning of “do not touch”).
The building for the museum is the oldest surviving pathology facility in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1895 as part of the Central State Hospital, formerly known as the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane. The building was used as a teaching resource and a place to research causes for mental illness. volunteer for the museum took us on a tour through clinical laboratories, a photography lab, teaching amphitheater autopsy room, and library where we found tons of fascinating artifacts and even preserved brains from the 19th and early 20th century.
Throughout the tour, we learned interesting things about the building, its occupants and how they served the hospital campus. One thing we learned is that George Edenharter, the superintendent of Central State Hospital from 1893-1923 and the one responsible for building the Pathological Department, was one of the first doctors to advocate that the mentally “insane” not be kept in shackles and that they should not be given alcohol to calm them. A painting depicting a similar sentiment hangs in the library to instill that philosophy. It was truly progressive thought at the time.
To finish out the tour, we visited the “dead house.” I’ll let you take the tour to learn why it’s called that, but it now serves as a reproduction of a 1950’s era family physician’s office. As we walked through the office we saw a variety of instruments and prescription pads which demonstrate the wide reach a family doctor had with patients…he really did it all, from treating common colds and setting broken bones to delivering babies and performing surgery. He even had the right to prescribe opium! My, how times have changed!
Summer visitors will also have a chance to view the Medicinal Plant Garden, a small plot of land between the pathology building and the dead house. The garden features over 90 different medicinal plants accompanied by signage stating its origin, what parts had medicinal uses, and what some of those uses were. Unfortunately it was a little too early in the season for us to enjoy this area of the tour.
What You Need to Know
Hours – The museum offers guided tours on the hour between 10am and 4pm (last tour starts promptly at 3pm) Thursday through Saturday for drop-in visitors and on Wednesday by appointment only.
Price – Admission is $10 for adults, $5 with a student ID and $3 for children under 18. The museum only accepts cash. They also have a donation box to help cover ongoing costs of the museum….and because it’s such an interesting facility, it’s hard to walk out without dropping a few bucks in.
Additional Information – The museum is located in a two story building with a few narrow walkways, so it definitely is not stroller or wheel chair friendly. While you theoretically could take small children, I would not recommend it. The topic is probably more suitable for older children and there are lots of artifacts that could easily be grabbed by little hands.
To see more pictures from our trip or to read more of what we learned, make sure to check out my flikr feed.
Rebeca is an average mom living in the Midwest. When not managing her highly-spirited family, this self-proclaimed information junky, can be found sharing tips on pinterest or blogging at The Average Parent.
3045 W Vermont Street