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New exhibit traces the history of the Jacksonville Developmental Center

A new exhibit featuring the history of the Jacksonville Developmental Center will officially open to the public on Saturday, April 6 at the Jacksonville Area Museum in downtown Jacksonville.

The state-operated Jacksonville Developmental Center opened as the Illinois State Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in 1851. For more than a century it was one of the city’s largest employers.

It was renamed several times through the years, including as the Jacksonville State Hospital in 1910, before being finally named the Jacksonville Developmental Center in the 1980s. More than 400 people were employed there when the facility closed due to state budget cuts in 2012.

“The Jacksonville Developmental Center is one of those institutions that is synonymous with the history of our community,” said Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman Allan Worrell. “We hope visitors will come to learn, or re-learn, the story of this iconic facility.”

The exhibit includes illustrations, photographs and artifacts and follows the history of the Developmental Center from the time it was officially authorized in 1847 through the next century and a half. The exhibit gives an unvarnished look at the institution, including its treatment of residents through the decades. Companion oral histories available on the museum website podcast page, www.jacksonvilleareamuseum.org/podcasts, feature interviews with former Developmental Center employees who describe their experiences there.

A special preview of the Jacksonville Developmental Center exhibit for museum members only will be offered on Friday evening, April 5.

The Jacksonville Area Museum uses original artifacts, storytelling exhibits and the building itself, as well as items from the MacMurray College Foundation and Alumni Association collection, to show people of all ages and backgrounds why the Jacksonville community has been and continues to be one of a kind. The museum is located in the old Post Office building at 301 E. State Street, and its regular schedule is Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. There is no admission fee but a donation of $5 is suggested to keep the museum operating.

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