As we walk into the F ward students are greeted with display cases that includes a mind blowing range of old medical equipment and remains of the previous buildings. Around the walls are photos and pictures of the original building, its staff and treatments the asylum used. Students are particularly impressed with the display of coma/insulin treatments and the range of old ECT machines and the very keen eyed students spot an old lobotomy needle in one of the counters. Our guides shared their knowledge and experience of the life on the F ward, the typical patients and the lay out of the room we were standing standing in.
As we moved from the ward into the corridor our students feel the change in the mood when they are led into the confinement room, complete with scratches on the wall. In the room is an original bed with original linen and mattress for students to touch; along the walls are the clothing the patients wore along with a straight jacket. Our students are instantaneously transported back in time, which helps them get a glimpse of life in the asylum.
We moved through the corridor and into the different rooms including a kitchen, observation room, store room and even a hairdressers. Students are met with all sorts of delights such as old doctor ledgers, mobile baths, nursery equipments and an eye opening telephone operator switchboard. Our students begin to understand the range of patients the original asylum housed and the lifestyle of both patients and staff, which challenges their pre existing idea of a dark dungeon-like place. Students are surprised to see that the asylum included sports teams, hairdressers, communal food halls and are blown away with the size of the original asylum.
Finally our tour guides offer a question and answer session, they are regaled with amazing stories of what it was like to live and work in the asylum. One of our guides talks about her time working as a psychiatric nurse in F ward and the patients she treated; with this real life experience she helps student to unpack comparisons with modern health care and treatments.
We visited the Hospital museum as part of our level 3 course, we focus our Key Study on Rosenhan’s ‘Being insane in sane places”. F ward provides an anchor to the study, allowing students to reflect on the methodological issues and impact the study has on diagnosis and treatments.
Opening hours are Tuesday 1pm-4pm but Friends of Porirua Hospital Incl Museum are more than happy to open to school groups.