Asylum: Out of the Shadows


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.


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

Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 4:00pm
History Museum at the Castle
330 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
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?



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. 


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?