Metropolitan State Hospital Museum

Coalinga entrance

As part of celebrating its 100-year history of treating mental illness through psychiatry and care, DSH-Metropolitan is launching the Metropolitan State Hospital Museum.

It was 1913 when California Governor Hiram Johnson signed legislation to open what would first be called Norwalk State Hospital, a facility designed to provide care and treatment to California's increasing population of individuals with substance addictions and psychiatric disabilities. Norwalk was selected over the choices of Beverly Hills and Signal Hill due to convenient roads and railroad access. The hospital accepted its first patients on February 15, 1916. As was common for the time, the state hospital was completely self-sufficient with its own farm, dairy, and livestock to provide for the needs of staff and patients.

"Metropolitan has been serving the people of the State of California for 100 years and is an essential and growing part of the community," said Dr. Michael W. Barsom, executive director of Metropolitan State Hospital. "Much has changed in 100 years and there is much more change and innovation to come in the near future."

This museum offers a small window into the past through which people can see how California has treated those with mental illness during the last century. It also will help the public understand more about mental illnesses and those people who suffer from them.

The museum is a volunteer effort of hospital staff with the assistance of local university students. Exhibits include old photographs of the facility and the grounds, uniforms, and medical equipment. In 1984, an archive room was developed at the hospital to store and preserve the historical artifacts, documents, photographs and records of the facility. A Centennial Committee made up of hospital employees took on the task of curating a museum to further display and preserve the hospital's history. The museum itself is located on the grounds of the hospital in what was one a residence for high-level staff at the hospital.

DSH-Metropolitan is the third state hospital still in operation to reach 100 years in age, the other two are DSH-Napa and DSH-Patton. DSH-Metropolitan is the second state hospital in California to open a museum. The first was the Patton State Hospital Museum, which opened in April of 2015 and has since had more than 1,000 visitors. Metropolitan hopes to have their museum finished by Fall of 2016.

State Hospital
This fire hose wagon was considered state-of-the-art safety equipment in 1890. It is designed so that even one or two people could quickly bring it to the scene of a fire and could move it around. This equipment pre-dates the establishment of an actual fire department at the hospital.
Patient Bedroom
This iron tub with a canvas cover was once used for hydrotherapy at Patton State Hospitals. Hydrotherapy was a popular practice at the beginning of the 20th century and involved soaking and relaxing in water.
Medical Instruments
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is the cornerstone of modern treatment of mental disorders. It is relied on universally in psychiatric treatment. Here is a collection of the first three editions published in 1952, 1968, and 1980.
Hospital Couch
A mid-20th century industrial sized toaster found at Patton State Hospital. This machine could produce 720 slices of toast per hour, which came in handy with a 1950s population of over 5,000.
Hospital Artifacts
This is the uniform of a nurse at Patton State Hospital. It is the style that was worn by all female nurses from the 1940s to about 1960.
Medical Devices
The front entrance to the Patton Hospital Museum features a rounded front doorway. These were popular features of the cottage homes like this one, built in 1923.
Bathtub
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is the cornerstone of modern treatment of mental disorders. It is relied on universally in psychiatric treatment. Here is a collection of the first three editions published in 1952, 1968, and 1980.
Office Equipment
A mid-20th century industrial sized toaster found at Patton State Hospital. This machine could produce 720 slices of toast per hour, which came in handy with a 1950s population of over 5,000.
Museum Entrance
This is the uniform of a nurse at Patton State Hospital. It is the style that was worn by all female nurses from the 1940s to about 1960.
Hospital Artifacts
The front entrance to the Patton Hospital Museum features a rounded front doorway. These were popular features of the cottage homes like this one, built in 1923.
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Interested in a Tour?

The museum was created through the volunteer efforts of hospital staff, both retired and current. Because the museum is being operated and staffed with volunteer docents, we are only able to open it for visitors on an appointment basis.

Sign up for a museum tour by submitting your request here. Please allow one hour for your tour.