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Kirkbride focus of television show

Published 11:21am Friday, February 8, 2013

With interest in the venerable Fergus Falls State Hospital running high, there are two ways this week to learn more about the history of the facility and local preservation efforts.

Pioneer Public Television will feature the State Hospital at 7 p.m. on Sunday as part of its Poscards series. The episode, titled “Saved Structures: Historic Hospitals,” will take a look inside the preservation efforts of two former state hospitals in our region.

The program will first highlight Willmar State Hospital’s transformation into a productive business community, the MinnWest Technology Campus. The second part of the program will highlight the Fergus Falls State Hospital, also referred to as The Kirkbride. The segment includes how members of the community are fighting to keep it standing.

Kirkbride buildings are named after Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a nineteenth-century physician and asylum superintendent who authored essays on hospital design, and had a far-reaching influence on the construction of American insane asylums through much of the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The twenty local productions of Postcards at Pioneer Public Television capture the stories about Minnesota art, history and cultural heritage, with funding provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Pioneer can be viewed on UHF Channel 49 in Fergus Falls.

Also of note, the State Hospital Exhibit at Otter Tail County Historical Society has been held over.

Tonight, there will be a grand re-opening of the exhibit at the museum from 4 to 7 p.m., including a special presentation at 6 p.m. entitled “Dr. William Patterson: The Man and the Legend.” This original dramatic recreation examines the 56 year career of the hospital’s most influential superintendent.

The exhibition “The State Welcomes You: Minnesota’s Third State Hospital” contains 125 photographs and scores of artifacts, and a display providing a comprehensive history of the institution as it evolved through its superintendents.

Part of the exhibit is also dedicated to how Fergus Falls was selected as the site of Minnesota’s Third State Hospital for the Insane. The display includes information on the farming operation, nurses’ training, the Occupational Therapy program and personal insights from a teenager who spent 14 months in the Adolescent Ward. Artifacts on display include the replica of a sailing ship made in great detail by a patient, medical instruments, dinnerware and other objects associated with hospital life.

A series of Friday morning coffee klatches will be held beginning Feb. 15 to discuss the Kirkbride. Check the Historical Society’s web site, www.otchs.org for specifics as the dates get closer.

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