Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A look into history: University of Alabama unveils Bryce Hospital Museum

CW / Ava Morthland
A statue of Peter Bryce sits at the Bryce Hospital Museum.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health hosted the opening of the Bryce Hospital Museum at the Catherine and Pettus Randall Welcome Center Friday. The museum, which is dedicated to former ADMH commissioner John Houston, commemorates the vision Houston had to remember the significance of Bryce Hospital.

Alongside a presentation, visitors took a self-guided tour of the museum’s artifacts and documents from Bryce Hospital that give insight into patient life. Visitors were also able to see the museum’s projection of the future of mental health treatment in Alabama. 

Bryce Hospital, opened in the 1850s, moved to its current location on McFarland Boulevard in 2009.  In 2010 its original property was acquired by The University of Alabama. 

According to ADMH commissioner Kimberly Boswell, the museum was “non-negotiable” in the sales agreement thanks to the efforts of Kathy Sawyer. Sawyer is the associate commissioner for the Division of Developmental Disabilities at ADMH. 

The current hospital offers patients a total of over 17 programs and treatments. The museum includes information on the resources ADMH offers, including crisis centers and peer support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.  

Speakers at the event included Boswell; Sawyer; Catherine Randall, chairman of the Board for the Pettus Randall Holdings limited liability company; Nathaniel Ledbetter, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives; and ADMH historian Steve Davis.

Over 100 people attended the opening and could speak with family members of former patients at the hospital and with the museum’s committee.

The addition of the museum to the Bryce Main building is another step in a larger renovation project of the site. Part of the project includes the new Catherine and Pettus Randall Welcome Center, which opened in January.

“So many people came through that door needing help and needing mental health care,” Boswell said. “To have them honored in this way with this building becoming the welcome center for The University of Alabama is so humbling to us.”

Boswell noted the importance of conserving the hospital and remembering history so that past mistakes do not reoccur.

In the 1970 lawsuit Wyatt v. Stickney, US District Judge Frank Johnson Jr. gave Bryce Hospital six months to reevaluate and reconstruct the treatment of patients at the hospital following reports of inhumane conditions for patients. Displayed in the museum, the lawsuit is credited for creating the minimum standards for the care of people dealing with mental health issues nationwide. 

Visitors can see a timeline of the case and the standards set after the ruling in a display on the museum’s wall. 

“The Museum for Mental Health in the Randall Welcome Center is the legacy for mental health in the state of Alabama,” Catherine Randall said.

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