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Central State Hospital collection

Identifier: L383

Scope and Contents

This collection includes mainly newspaper clippings as well as the 1955-1956 annual report, newsletters, articles, and materials on volunteer activities from Central State Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana ranging from 1927 to 1978 regarding Central State Hospital and other psychiatric facilities throughout Indiana, with information on the topics of alcoholism, child abuse, and mental illness research. The newspaper clippings include award-winning articles written by Skip Hess of the Indianapolis News concerning the mistreatment of the mentally ill at Central State during the 1960s and 1970s. There are also materials, including photographs, magazine and newspaper articles, reports, and programs, on volunteer activities at Central State Hospital during the 1950s and 1960s, such as assisting with library and escort (transportation) services, "adopting" a ward, and providing patient programs and activities on home economics, handcrafts, gardening, drama, art, dance, writing shorthand, current events discussions, and for holidays.

There is also an oversize folder of clippings regarding the hospital (B010).


  • 1927-1978

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

Although authorized by the Indiana General Assembly in 1827, the Indiana Hospital for the Insane did not open in Indianapolis, Indiana until November, 1848. A single brick building on Washington Street, the hospital was established as the primary psychiatric treatment facility in the state. The institution grew rapidly over the next century, coming to occupy 160 acres on the city's west side. In 1889, the facility was renamed Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane. In 1898, a state-of-the-art pathology building opened on the hospital campus for the purpose of researching causes and treatments of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia (or dementia praecox), depression (melancholia), general paresis, hysteria, alcoholism, senile dementia, and epilepsy. By the turn of the 20th century, the patient population had grown to nearly 3,000.

In 1926, the facility was rebranded a second time as Central State Hospital as other psychiatric hospitals had opened in Evansville, Logansport, Madison, and Richmond to redistribute some of the burden from the Indianapolis institution. During the 1960s and 1970s, the number of patients diminished as the push for deinstitutionalization began in the mental health field. In the 1960s, the Pathology Department closed and the building reopened as the Indiana Medical History Museum in 1969. The nation’s oldest surviving facility of its kind, the Old Pathology Building holds an amphitheater; laboratories for bacteriology, clinical chemistry, histology, and photography, an autopsy room, and an anatomical museum, while the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Central State Hospital finally closed in 1994 by order of Governor Evan Bayh, following allegations of patient abuse and chronic funding issues.


Items in the colleciton.

Indiana Archives and Records Administraiton. "Introduction." Central State Hospital Collection Index. Accessed August 12, 2015.

Indiana Medical History Museum. "About the Indiana Medical History Museum." Accessed August 12, 2015.

Ksander, Yael. "Central State Hospital." Moment of Indiana History. Accessed August 12, 2015.


2.33 Cubic Feet (2 cubic foot boxes; 1 manuscript box, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Central State Hospital in December 1987.


No further additions are expected.

Related Archival Material

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

OBC096: Central State Hospital architectural drawings, undated B003: Central State Hospital clippings

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2015/08/06 by Nikki Stoddard Schofield. EAD finding aid created 2015/08/06 by Nikki Stoddard Schofield. EAD finding aid revised 2015/08/13 by Brittany Kropf. EAD finding aid updated 2021/08/25 by Lauren Patton.
Central State Hospital collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.