Authors @ Alden Series – Katherine Ziff Discusses Research on Athens Asylum

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Katherine Ziff, author of Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape, discusses her use of Alden Library while researching the Athens Lunatic Asylum. (Photo by Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries)

Last week, Ohio University Libraries held a conversation with Katherine Ziff, author of Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape. This edition of the Authors @ Alden series, hosted by Curator of Manuscripts, Doug McCabe, was made possible in partnership with the Ohio University Press. A live webcast of the event was made available via Adobe Connect which featured an interactive conversation between viewers, Ziff and McCabe, as well as historic photos courtesy of theĀ Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.

View the archived video on the Libraries’ YouTube channel and take a look at pictures from the event on our Facebook page.

Katherine Ziff is a scholar of psychiatric history and asylums. Asylum on the Hill, published in 2012, is considered one of the most detailed accounts on the history as well as the revolutionary practices in psychiatry and patient care that took place at the Athens Lunatic Asylum.

A variety of artifacts from the asylum were on display for the event; including historic photos, maps, and documents. These items, stored in the Mahn Center, are part of the largest remaining collection of asylum documents and artifacts.

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(From Left) Justin Gray and Heather Irwin of Ross County examine documents from the Athens Lunatic Asylum collection. (Photo by Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries)

Many community members with personal connections to the Athens Asylum were in attendance. According to Ziff, the asylum was the largest employer in the Athens area until the mid 20th century, making it an integral part of Athens and Ohio University. OHIO has since overshadowed the now defunct facility, but continues to preserve the history and physical remnants of an important center in the development of modern psychiatry.

Organizers of the event were very pleased with the amount of community involvement. “It was great to see both our local and online communities respond with such enthusiasm to the concept and topic. We are looking forward to the next Authors @ Alden event,” said Director of Development, Doug Partusch.