Category Archives: Indiana


COVID threw everything into disarray, including this blog. It was always meant to be a travel blog and that, of course, abruptly stopped. We tried to post about “traveling” close to home. Okay, they were mostly posts about picking up garbage and taking joy in old trash. Once we started taking day trips they often felt more like probation than adventure.

Yesterday, I found myself on an airplane for the first time in two years. It was like riding a bike…while having a panic attack. I jest! Sort of. COVID precautions are very serious for our family and this was the first time any of us has traveled. We’ve only eaten inside a restaurant a handful of times since the pandemic began, let alone faced crowded terminals and planes. This was a work trip, so armed with every precaution, I took to the skies.

The last two years have been tough. The last year has been really tough. The last month has been tougher. It has been a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other existence of late. Spontaneity has been hard to come by. When I got on the plane, I knew where I would be staying, what I would be doing, and even where I would be eating. It was planned down to the minute.

I was headed south along State Road 67, about 20 minutes from Indianapolis International Airport, when my head whipped over to read a sign along the highway. I read it quickly three times trying to resolve what I was reading with where I was. I had a decision to make – continue south to my destination as planned or go back and investigate. Impulsively, I jumped into the left lane and made a U-turn. I figured they would be closed, but I still wanted to check it out.

Only they weren’t closed and I found myself standing inside Who North America, America’s Dr. Who Store.

Let’s step back in time for a moment to reveal my geeky past and to help explain the sheer joy in this discovery…

London, August 1994

Inside was an absolute candy store for Dr. Who fans. Not only did they have the expected merch – including toys, books, CDs, dishes, and more – there was also a museum in the store. If they had had a 13th Dr. coat it would have been the world’s greatest impulse buy, but alas it was one of the few things they didn’t have.

I selected a few items and gifts, knowing I had to get back on the road, but feeling so much better with this unexpected discovery. And now the 13th Dr. and I are traveling together in Indiana.

In case you wondered, the store is indeed bigger on the inside.


Indiana Medical History Museum

Indiana Medical History Museum, Journal of Insanity
Indiana Medical History Museum, Journal of Insanity

“So…how long will you be here for?” the cab-driver asked in his heavy African patois. With our conference over, the three of us – Marilyn, Kat, and myself – had but a few hours left to explore Indianapolis before heading out for our respective home states; I nearly answered as much, until I saw the cabbie warily assessing a few distressed homes and unkempt yards surrounding us.

Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis, IN
Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis, IN

“An hour – maybe two,” I said, recognizing the seemingly questionable sense of three out-of-towners dodging the well-attended confines of their downtown hotel for a destination three-and-a-half miles west, in a neighborhood that grew rougher-looking by the block.

“Ah, good,” the cabbie said, exhaling his concern. “This neighborhood…might not find a cab back so easy.”

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

The four of us stared incredulously at the large, empty field surrounded by wire fence when his GPS announced our arrival about a half-mile later. It was Marilyn who finally noticed the non-descript sign that stood watch at the entrance to a long, flat driveway: INDIANA MEDICAL HISTORY MUSEUM.

“This is it,” said Kat, pointing down the lane.

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

The driver headed slowly through the open gate, coming to a stop a few hundred yards later in front of the Old Pathology Building, which houses the museum. The driver handed Marilyn a business card.

IMHM dept

“You call this number when you are ready for pick-up,” he said. “They will send a driver for you.”

We stood before the brick Victorian as the cab pulled off. Built in 1895, the structure is one of the few remaining vestiges of the once-sprawling Central State Hospital, a self-contained psychiatric institution whose various incarnations operated on the site from the mid-19th century until its complete closure in 1994. Today, the Indiana Medical History Museum, housed in what was once called the Pathological Department Building, chronicles the earliest days of modern psychiatry and medicine.

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

Inside, we paid our admission and were directed to wait in the nearby anatomical museum for the next scheduled tour. Guided tours, which begin on the hour, are mandatory, and for good reason, to which the museum’s fragile artifacts and sometimes constrained presentation ultimately attest.

IMHM anatomical

With the arrival of a few more paying customers, a very knowledgeable docent named John led us on an informative tour of the museum’s key features, including its teaching amphitheater, clinical laboratories, photography lab, library, autopsy room, medicinal garden, and a small brick outbuilding known as the “Dead House”, where cadavers were once stored for extended periods of time.

Indiana Medical History Museum, Dead House
Indiana Medical History Museum, Dead House

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Indiana Medical History Museum lies in the immediacy of its displays, which often suggest a phantom staff of doctors, nurses, and administrators who were there one day and gone the next, leaving everything in its place. Photography is permitted throughout the building save for one upstairs room, which still houses old patient records. Ancient textbooks bearing titles like Sexual Truths and Journal of Insanity abound in nearly every room.

IMHM  Amphitheater

However, despite its collections of autopsy equipment and preserved biological specimens, the Indiana State Medical Museum’s presentation avoids ghoulish overtones, focusing instead on pioneering efforts to scientifically identify and treat various forms of mental illness. It will appeal to fans of places like the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia and Scotland’s Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (both stories for another time), and is well worth a jaunt for anyone living or staying in the Indianapolis vicinity. But those without their own transportation be warned: plan your return trip in advance.

IMHM brain model

3045 West Vermont Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222
(317) 635-7329
Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (last tour starts at 3:00 p.m.)
Cost: $10 (seniors $9; students $5, with valid ID)

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum