The Glore Psychiatric Museum

The Glore Psychiatric Museum

In 1966, George Glore of the Missouri Department of Mental Health had an idea for a Mental Health Awareness Week display. He built life-sized examples of phsyciatric treatment equipment from earlier centuries. Considered revolutionary at the time, many of these techniques—including shock therapy devices, ice baths, confinement boxes, giant treadmills, and more—now seem barbaric. As Glore himself explained, “We really can’t have a good appreciation of the strides we’ve made (in mental health treatment) if we don’t look at the atrocities of the past.”

The following year, Glore’s collection grew to include artifacts from other facilities around the state. The Glore Psychiatric Museum first opened in a ward of Missouri’s St. Joseph State Hospital, originally known as State Lunatic Asylum No. 2. Built in 1874, the fortress-like structure began with 25 patients, growing to more than 3,000 patients over the next 75 years. In 1968, the museum moved across the street to a former patient clinic, and the hospital itself was repurposed into a state prison and psychiatric rehabilitation facility. Today the museum is part of a cluster of cultural facilities, including the St. Joseph Museum, the Black Archives Museum, and the American Indian Galleries.


The focus of the museum’s collection includes both Glore’s life-sized models and a series of dioramas featuring Barbie dolls subjected to a variety of mental health “cures” of the past. These displays include quotes from contemporary doctors assessing the original purpose and intent of each. Many of these notes point out that, at their times, each solution was thought to be a preferred and acceptable choice, nearly all discarded when the age of psychotropic drugs began. Alongside the horrors of the past, the Glore highlights the amazing artwork of former patients. Many of these are intentional works—paintings, drawings, and sculptures—from patients who participated in art therapy programs over the hospital’s long history. Other displays are pieces of unintended or accidental beauty. One large console television used in a group room quit working. Staff discovered the interior of the console had been filled with hundreds upon hundreds of small paper notes. A single patient had written each, his mind assuring him that the television would transmit his notes to God. If you have an interest in the past and present of psychiatric treatment, the Glore Psychiatric Museum is a one-of-a-kind experience. The museum is open year-round and has long been one of our favorite Midwest stops.
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