JAMESTOWN — The North Dakota State Hospital opened its doors before there was a state of North Dakota.
The history of the institution is told through the displays in the North Dakota State Hospital Museum, according to Tonya Perkins, hospital administrator.
The public is invited to an open house at the museum from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 8, at the museum located on the fourth floor of the Learning Resource Center building on the State Hospital campus. The North Dakota State Hospital Cemetery will also be open during that time.
The museum was developed in 2010 as part of the 125th anniversary celebration of the State Hospital. Rosalie Etherington, current hospital superintendent, was the clinical director of the State Hospital in 2010 and the driving force behind bringing together the artifacts and story of the facility told at the museum.
She was recently honored with the Excellence in Local History Award by the North Dakota Historical Society for that work.
“What I’ve appreciated of Dr. Ethrington’s historical interest is she hasn’t shied away from the more tumultuous history,” Perkins said. “She’s acknowledged that as well as the accomplishments of the State Hospital.”
The artifacts on display at the museum include straitjackets and a morgue or autopsy table as well as banners for the champion dairy cattle that were part of the State Hospital’s award-winning herd. Medical record books and patient census information are displayed in the original handwritten books.
There are also numerous examples of the wicker furniture created by patients as occupational therapy in the past.
One wall of the museum includes a timeline of events at the State Hospital and the world. A common theme through the early years of the State Hospital was overcrowding, including a 1914 incident where a chicken coop was constructed as part of the hospital’s farming operation but was utilized as patient housing out of necessity.
The patient population at the State Hospital peaked at more than 2,000 in 1950.
“Then came deinstitutionalization and community mental health services,” Perkins said. “The role of the State Hospital has changed.”
The changing role of the State Hospital has left it as the only long-term mental health rehabilitation service in North Dakota. It also provides acute mental health and addiction treatment and treatment of sexual offenders for the state of North Dakota.
It still plays a major part in the community of Jamestown as one of the city’s largest employers and, in the past, a leader in social activities, Perkins said. The facility currently employs more than 450, according to the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
“In the past, the State Hospital held powwows, church services and other events,” Perkins said. “There is a long history of community involvement and playing a crucial role in the history of Jamestown.”