Metropolitan State Hospital Museum
In 2015, Metropolitan State Hospital opened the Metropolitan State Hospital Museum. The opening coincided with the hospital’s celebration of its 100-year anniversary and its history of treating mental illness through psychiatry and care.
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 opened its museum in Spring of 2016.
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.