It was once the largest mental hospital in the world. Founded in 1842, Central State Hospital in Milledgeville changed in major ways over the years — witnessing advances in medical technology and patient care.
A new, online exhibit spotlights these evolutions, showing the impact health care workers there had in the field of nursing.
“No matter how you view the history of mental health treatment in the United States, the institution located here in Milledgeville serves as a paradigm of the country’s treatment of people living with mental illness,” said Evan Leavitt, manager of facilities operations and planning at Georgia College’s Ina Dillard Russell Library.
The university partnered with the Georgia Public Library System to create the digital exhibit. The project stems from the Community Memory Project, which began in 2019 as a collaboration with Twin Lakes Library in Milledgeville. The group included Leavitt, Georgia College Digital Archivist Holly Croft, Community Engagement Archivist Jessamyn Swan and former Director of Twin Lakes Library, Stephen Houser.
They were awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to document and preserve Central State Hospital’s oral history. The project is designed to increase use of digitized cultural materials, inspire research and tell the CSH story in an inclusive way, highlighting people and communities that may have been overlooked in the past.
The exhibit features the work of African-American nurses, like Ruth Hartley Mosley and Ludie Clay Andrews. Hartley Mosley was the first African-American head nurse of a patient ward at Central State Hospital and went on to become a civil rights activist and philanthropist. Clay Andrews, a Milledgeville native and Georgia’s first black registered nurse, organized the Municipal Training School for Colored Nurses.
The exhibit is available online with two other exhibits that highlight Georgia history: “Albany, Georgia’s Courthouses” from the Dougherty County Public Library and “Ballard Normal School, Macon GA: African American Student Life in the 1930s” from the Washington Memorial Library.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a digital exhibit must be worth ten thousand words,” said Exhibit Curator Muriel Jackson of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System. “These exhibits will represent our communities for years to come.”
The Central State Hospital exhibit can be viewed online, using following the link: https://georgialibraries.omeka.net/s/central-state-hospital/page/introduction.