Asylum: Out of the Shadows

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I had the day off on Friday and decided to take a trip up to Appleton for the afternoon. I met up with Molly and got lunch with her–she had to work. After, I made my way over to the History Museum at the Castle just up the street to check out the newest exhibit, Asylum: Out of the Shadows. This was an informative and interesting history of a local psychiatric care facility at the turn of the century.

The exhibit did a fantastic job of portraying life in the Outagamie County Asylum for the Insane for the residents and the roles of its staff played in care. It was interesting to see how “conditions” were diagnosed and treatment methods used throughout the facility’s century of operation. Not everyone that went in were incapable of carrying on a normal life. Some of the residents in the institution worked on the farm nearby to provide food for the facility.

 

The institution was meant to be a haven for those that needed long-term care for disorders, but dark facts showed what happened behind the walls of the institution. Physical abuse, scandal, untrained staff, food deprivation, and financial woes made life at the asylum hard for some. Early superintendents who oversaw the facility had no prior experience or knowledge of mental healthcare. These problems ushered in change to ensure that residents received the best care possible.

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I looked forward to seeing this exhibit since it opened back in November. I think the current state of mental health treatment in our nation made this exhibit very relevant to the present. I was fascinated to learn where we have come in diagnoses and treatment of individuals with mental and behavioral disorders. I was also very impressed with the personal stories of the residents undergoing treatment there, which was a great touch that removed stigma and returned humanity to the residents.

What a great job the museum did to capture this topic and make it so interesting and informative! The museum also did a great job of making it interactive for visitors. Doors and drawers could be opened view images or read letters and books from the period. Bulletin boards allowed visitors to post their thoughts to questions posed to them. I highly recommend you take a trip to Appleton to check it out before it goes away in 2018. Make sure you download the app on your phone to listen to the stories of patients and staff! 

History Museum at the Castle

Hours
Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 4:00pm
Location
History Museum at the Castle
330 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Admission
Adults $7.50
Children (5-17) $3.50
Seniors (65+) and Students w/ID $5.50
Under 5 Free
Families $20.00
Members Free

Have you visited the exhibit? What shocked you the most? What was your main takeaway from the exhibit?

 

 

Sunday Evening Reflections

Fall is here again, and soon winter will bring snow. Colder weather means more time to sit down and write–or at least that is my plan. It has been a busy but short summer here at the Frederick house. Molly and I have had quite a few weddings to go to this year, and Molly even stood up in one. We saved up and went to Las Vegas for our 3rd anniversary which was a fun experience. There were few weekends spent in the North Woods and a couple on the farm with our families. Dad, Adam, Dan and I finally made it to the Orange Spectacular to see a great collection of Allis-Chalmers tractors. Summer was fun, but Molly and I are happy for things to slow down as the seasons change.

I’ve been at my job with the county just over a year, and I am enjoying it. Working for the county is a phenomenal opportunity for me. I’m learning so many new skills that are so valuable in making me a better employee and more well-rounded person. My supervisor is also utilizing my skills as a researcher to assist with historical preservation work at our county courthouse. We have managed to track down and retrieve an original light fixture that will be going back up in the building soon.

I am still pursuing my dream career of working in a historical institution. In the mean time, I have been very active in my community through volunteer work. I am still involved with the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society after 3 years of serving on the board of directors. This month I will have been the vice president of the society for one year. In addition to my historical society work,  I have assisted the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau with its Historic Oshkosh tourism program that has been recently launched. Last month I was appointed onto the Oshkosh Landmarks Commission and am ecstatic for the work they do in historic preservation.

Molly and I continue to make our home in Oshkosh along with our two little Dachshunds, Theodore an Franklin. The boys, as we call them, enjoy our little place in town. Although, I am trying to convince Molly that they would enjoy the wide open area of the country. We’ve made a few improvements to our home this past year, and we are always planning on what we can do next. I suppose in a few years there will be little ones running around the house, but we have quite a few things to get in order before that day.

I enjoy the transition to fall. The vast sea of oranges, yellows, reds, and browns that the trees display. It is also nice to crack the windows during the day and curl up with a blanket on the cool nights.  I wish I had the same optimism for winter. Nonetheless, It feels good to sit down and put ideas to blog post once again. I hope you, my followers, will continue to read what this young historian has to write about.

 

Our Adventure in Manitowoc

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Molly and I have been suffering from cabin fever like most Wisconsinites this time of year. We decided to hit the road and travel to Manitowoc for some fun. Molly wanted to check out a new yarn store that just opened, and I wanted to visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum  along the lakeshore.

We planned our trip just at the right time. Manitowoc was celebrating Ice on 8th (8th Street is the main commercial district.) Locals came out and carved ice sculptures all along the sidewalks. There were also a few other activities planned during the festival. We explored the stores and even bought a few souvenirs. We had to stop a local coffee shop for some warm drinks–the air was nippy that day!

After our adventure of shopping, we headed down 8th Street to the Courthouse Pub across the street from the county courthouse. It was a super-sweet little brewpub! I ordered some of their craft beer and it was refreshing! If you go for lunch, Molly and I recommend ordering their delicious Judge’s Burger. They serve some great food and drinks in a fun setting.

After lunch, we headed down to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. We got there just in time to take a tour of the submarine USS Cobia. The Cobia is a Gato-class submarine built during World War II. While the Cobia was not built in Manitowoc, it is similar to 28 other Gato-class submarines built at the local shipyard.  The Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company employed some 7,000 people during the war to build these vessels. Upon completion, the submarines were tested in Lake Michigan and then were taken down to the Gulf of Mexico on barges in the cover of night.

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I think Molly really enjoyed the tour. It was something different for her–this was my third time in the submarine.  We headed back in the museum to see the rest of the exhibits. They had model boats, a triple expansion steam engine, and a great collection of sail and motor boats.

What I enjoy the most is when the stories of the men and women are brought to life. Before walking into the USS Cobia exhibit, there were little postcards that had a picture, name, background, and a story about a sailor that served on the vessel. It’s great when the personal stories tied in with the artifact.  You can go into this ship and learn all about the mechanics and specs of the ship. But it is the stories of the young men that risked their lives in these vessels to serve their country that makes it an interesting and lasting history. If it was not for them the ship would just be a floating piece of metal.

Have you visited the USS Cobia? What were your impressions? What did you think of the rest of the exhibits?

Great War to Great Gatsby

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Molly and I had a great Labor Day weekend. We did some of the usual summer rituals. We had friends over for a brat fry, beer, and a campfire to roast s’mores and visit.  It was a great way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer. But a holiday weekend is not complete without learning some history. We paid a visit to the Oshkosh Public Museum to see their current exhibit called, Great War to Great Gatsby: 1914-1929.

We both find this era very intriguing, especially the fashion and entertainment of the 1920s. Both of these topics and more were touched on in the exhibit. Upon stepping into the exhibit, I was amazed to see the local items in its collection connected to this era. Molly even commented, “all of these gowns are in the museum’s collection?” We often learn of all the movements, social norms, and cultural fads on a national level. This exhibit brings that history home.

You will encounter a number of objects with some interesting history behind them. You will learn about Oshkosh suffragette Jessie Jack Hooper and get up close to one of her 1920s outfits.Oshkosh men and women volunteered to serve and defend the United States during the Great War, and their uniforms are displayed. Bathing suits,  kitchen appliances, and homemade moonshine stills, are just a few of the objects on display. All of them having a connection to someone or some event in Oshkosh of that era.

I am always excited to see ways that museums are making exhibits interactive for the audience. There were a few in this exhibit that were fun. You were able to pick up an old telephone and listen to someone telling you a story over the phone. An old radio was set up that allowed guests to press buttons and  hear popular music from that time. Another interactive portion was a wall filled with automobile ads with car features and prices. You wrote which car you preferred, and you could also figure out the 2015 price of that vehicle.

In the end, we both really enjoyed the exhibit. I hope the OPM can put on some more exhibits with objects and stories that coincide with a set time period. I liked learning about the connections to Oshkosh with events like Prohibition, fashion, suffragist movement, and the advancement in technology. Go and see it before it’s gone! The exhibit lasts until October 18.

 

 

The Muk Luks Museum

This weekend my wife, Molly, and I spent some time with my folks in Markesan. We traveled up the road to Princeton, Wisconsin. Princeton is a little town along the Fox River that has a wonderful flea market every Saturday in the park. We made it a point this weekend to go to the Princeton flea market and the downtown businesses for some local shopping.

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While shopping in stores on Water Street, a little building with a red door and big white letters in the window caught our attention–The Muk Luks Museum. It is a quaint, self-guided museum that tells a history that I knew nothing about. This little museum was so intriguing to me that I could not pass up the opportunity to have a look.

The extent of my knowledge of Muk Luks is that of Molly having a pair of them. It seems like a trendy line of crochet apparel. I had no idea that the origins were in Princeton. It started as a hobby business that grew over time. Heck, I learned that my hometown of Markesan had a factory where these socks were made. The original company was bought in the early 1970s, and operations were moved to Milwaukee. While the socks are no longer made there, they continue to be popular.

It was amazing to see how people came together in the community to establish a small museum that tells a big story. Museums come in all shapes and sizes, but what matters most is the amazing stories that we learn inside. If you are visiting Princeton or just passing through take a few minutes and stop by this little building to support the local effort to preserve a piece of history.

Camp 5 and the Lumberjack Steam Train

This past weekend our families got together in northern Wisconsin. It was a weekend of relaxation and fun at the lake. We spent some time out on the lake boating and swimming. My father-in-law, Dan, was the cook, and my father, Mitch, was the entertainment! It seems like whenever we visit the cottage we do some sort of history lesson. This time we paid a visit to the Camp 5 Logging Museum.

First off, I am a railroad fanatic. I have always been fascinated with the steam locomotives, so when we pulled up to the museum and an old steam locomotive was waiting by the station… I sort of lost it. I knew this was going to be a fun experience. You purchase your tickets at the ticket office in the old depot. The train takes you for a short ride over to the logging camp/farm. On our way out to the museum, the family piled into a vintage, wooden passenger car. With a few short blasts of the steam whistle, the train began to move down the track.

A few minutes later we arrived at Camp 5. What a neat little museum they have. There was a petting zoo, logging museum, blacksmith shop, general store, and a food shack. I was eager to learn some history about the logging industry in the area ( I had ancestors who were lumberjacks). They had a full spread of tools and equipment used by men in the camps, as well as some history of the company the camp was associated with. Molly was really excited to feed the animals at the petting zoo, so we spent $1 for a bag of oats to feed to the goats, donkey, and a calf.

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When we were done at the museum the train came to take us back. I chose to sit in the observation car ( formerly a cattle car) right behind the locomotive. A conductor yelled, “All Aboard,” and we were on our way. The locomotive gave a few long blasts of the whistle and began to hiss and chug. The black smoke billowed from the stack as we roared down the track. The smell of the burning coal was distinct, and it made me wonder what industrial cities like Oshkosh and Milwaukee once smelled like with all the coal-burning factories and locomotives. Tiny particles of soot rained down on us for a few moments. I did not mind it all. I figured it was all part of the experience.

Finally, we arrived at the depot. As we disembarked from the train, one of the engineers asked a five or six-year-old boy if he would like to blow the steam whistle. He must have been shy, because he opted out. I wonder what the engineer thought when a stocky, twenty-four-year-old guy came running up and anxiously asked if he could blow the steam whistle ( I was just a little excited ). After posing for a picture with Molly, I made my way up to the cab of the locomotive, and Dad, who was just as excited, was right there to watch. I latched on to the cord and gave two long blasts and then two short blasts of the steam whistle.  It was better than I imagined it would be. Wow, I got to blow the whistle of a steam locomotive. I can cross that off of my bucket list.

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Yours truly blowing the whistle

It was truly a fun day at Camp 5. If you are near Laona, Wisconsin, I would recommend it to anyone with small children. It is educational and hands on. Heck, I might even go back again someday for a chance to ride in the locomotive and blow the steam whistle again!

Day in Appleton

My wife and I decided to hit the road this weekend and take a trip to Appleton. It’s only about a 20-25 minute drive up the road, so we just went for it. I made a deal with Molly, I told her that if we could go to the History Museum at the Castle that I would take her shopping. We actually spent more time shopping than at the museum, but we were both content in the end. 

Before you go on a history/shopping adventure it is important to eat a good meal. We always wanted to go to the Appleton Beer Factory to try out their brews and food. I tried their Hefeweizen  (hay-fuh-veyt-sssenn) and a mac n cheese sandwich, and Molly ordered the Blonde Ale with a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Everything was very delicious, and I plan to bring my father-in-law back to this awesome brewpub. 

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After the brewpub we made our way over to the museum. I was there many years ago, but there is a fun exhibition  called Food  going on now. There is also a floor dedicated to the history of Harry Houdini and his legacy as an escape artist. In the basement you get a glimpse of Appleton’s paper industry, the city’s historical timeline, and recreations of businesses ( bank, doctor’s office, gas station). There was even a little corner about Senator Joseph McCarthy.

I have to say that I was really impressed with the  exhibition about food. I enjoyed all the different elements and visuals used in it. I also liked the ways that the museum incorporated social media into the panels. This was the first time I saw a panel with twitter hashtags to engage discussion. There was a question, depending on the topic, and then you could tweet a response to it on the museum’s hashtag (#MyHistoryMuseum). Another great technique used to get school children involved was asking a question and supplying sticky notes for responses on the panels. Another involved telling a story of opposing views and asking them to make a choice of who they sided. The choice was made by placing a token in a container next to the options.

It was a fun-filled day of beer, history, and shopping. It was great to get back to that museum to see the exhibition and the information they had to share. Have you been to the museum to see Food? What did you think of it and what did you learn?