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Western Lunatic Asylum [Staunton, Virginia] Collection

 Collection
Identifier: Ms-2016-021

Scope and Content

The Western Lunatic Asylum Collection includes correspondence written to the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia, dating from 1840 to about 1870, as well as final year reports from 1862 and 1903. The correspondece relates to the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia, and most of the letters are written to Dr. Francis T. Stribling, the director of the Western Lunatic Asylum, by family members of patients concerning their care.

Dates

  • 1840 - 1903
  • Majority of material found within 1840 - 1868

Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (specref@vt.edu or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Administrative History

Originally called the Western State Lunatic Asylum, the Western Lunatic Asylum was a hospital for the mentally ill in Staunton, Virginia, opening in 1828. In its early years, the institution was a resort-style asylum, directed under Dr. Francis T. Stribling. Dr. Stribling promoted a clean, healthy, and kind atmosphere that would aid in the healing process of his patients. While Dr. Stribling was the director of the hospital, patients were well cared for and treated with respect.

This model of care vanished in the 1900s, replaced by the overcrowding and the warehousing of patients. Techniques such as physical restraints and straitjackets were then used. After the passage of the Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924 in Virginia, patients at the Western Lunatic Asylum were sterilized (sometimes forcibly) under the authorization of Joseph DeJarnette, a noted eugenicist. He was the director of the hospital from 1905 to 1943, implementing much stricter and harsher practices than his predecessor. Electroshock therapy and lobotomies were also practiced at the institution.

The hospital moved to its present site off of Interstate 81, and the property remained vacated until it was converted in the 1970s into the Staunton Correctional Center, a men's penitentiary. The prison closed in 2003, and the site was then left vacant again for several years. In 2005, the state of Virginia gave the property to the Staunton Industrial Authority, and the facility has now been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.

Extent

0.6 Cubic Feet (1 box; 1 oversize folder)

Abstract

The Western Lunatic Asylum Collection includes correspondence written to the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia, dating from 1840 through the late 19th century, as well as annual reports from the 1860s and 1900s.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into two series, Correspondence and Annual reports, which are each arranged in chronological order.

Source of Acquisition

The Western Lunatic Asylum [Staunton, Virginia] Collection was purchased in three separate accession between August and November of 2016. Additional materials were acquired in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Additional letters may be received in the future.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Western Lunatic Asylum [Staunton, Virginia] Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your- work/public-domain/cc0/).

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Western Lunatic Asylum Collection was completed in December 2016. Additional arrangement and description was completed in April 2018. The 2018 and 2019 accessions were processed on a rolling basis and the finding aid was updated in June 2019 and July 2021.

Title
Western Lunatic Asylum [Staunton, Virginia] Collection, 1840-1903 (bulk 1840-1868)
Status
Completed
Author
Katie Herring, Student Assistant, Leeann Jones, Student Assistant, and Kira A. Dietz, Archivist
Date
2021 (CC0 1.0)
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Contact:
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US
540-231-6308