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September 14, 2013

Effort aims to keep CSH museum artifacts local

MILLEDGEVILLE — Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) Executive Director Mike Couch said the campus museum located in the old train depot building tells the full story of the city through institution eyes.

To help preserve it and continue to maintain the story locally, the CSHLRA is working on a property proposal for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) ensuring the artifacts stay put. CSH peaked in the 1960s with more than 12,000 patients crowning the institution as the largest facility in the world for the centralized mental health treatment.

“A group of citizens and doctors were looking for a kinder, gentler treatment for those with mental and physical challenges. It was revolutionary in its day, and it addressed a need,” Dr. Amy Wright, Old Capital Museum executive director, said. “People used to just be locked away, and now they were able to come and get treated with respect for the most part. For 172 years, it’s been a place of solace for many residents and families.”

Wright analyzed the collection calling it “invaluable.”  

“It absolutely must be kept in Milledgeville. The exhibits, artifacts and memorabilia just describe the history like nothing else,” Wright said. “The archival collection of records and pictures need to be cataloged, preserved and kept in one place.”

Several family generations worked at CSH. The museum helps living relatives reconnect.

Considering increasing searches for genealogy information regarding family members, Wright said the CSH museum’s documents should be accessible to researchers and families.

The museum features rooms set up as clinic and treatment areas, as well as a CSH director dining room.

A vast production of arts and crafts including linens, embroidery, ceramics, paintings and other items done by clients are also viewable.

Currently, the CSHLRA fights to repurpose and develop some 200 building on about 2,000 campus acres.

Central State was once a major economic asset for Milledgeville as well as for the state of Georgia. The CSH authority drives to return property to local hands that understand the highest and best use.

The hospital will never be the same, though the museum helps recall what made it a giant innovator.

The publication ‘But For The Grace of God’ covers the history of Central State Hospital from 1842-1950. The book is available for a $10 contribution going directly to the museum.

Anyone interested in the book or a museum tour can call the CSHLRA office at 478-454-1850.

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