Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum

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Wayne State University Press, 2001 - Photography - 193 pages
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An intimate photographic journey into 115 years of history inside a nineteenth-century asylum. In the nineteenth century, perhaps no approach to mental illness was more compassionate than that of hospital administrator Thomas Story Kirkbride, whose asylum designs integrated beauty and nature as a method to treat patients. The Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan, was one of the last of nearly two hundred such architecturally intriguing asylums. Founded in 1885 under the principle beauty is therapy, the Northern Michigan Asylum closed in 1989 and today stands as a haunting reminder of this lost era. Angels in the Architecture is a photographic study of this institution's one-hundred-year history. Heldi Johnson's photographs of the building today are juxtaposed with rare images from private collections and state archives. The photographs are augmented by powerful first-hand accounts of former staff members and patients that reveal both sad realities and surprising acts of kindness. The book takes readers on a virtual walking tour of a nineteenth-century asylum. Of particular interest is the hospital's Building 50, a four-block-long structure topped by twelve castleli

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About the author (2001)

Heidi Johnson is a professional photographer whose clients include Michigan Land Use Institute, HOUR Detroit Magazine, Warner Brothers, Best Buy Corporation, and the state of Michigan. She is a former artist-in-residence in photography at Interlochen Arts Academy.

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