JDC Exhibit to Open to the Public on Saturday

By Jeremy Coumbes on April 1, 2024 at 8:32am

A new exhibit featuring the history of the Jacksonville Developmental Center will officially open to the public this weekend at the Jacksonville Area Museum.

The state-operated Jacksonville Developmental Center opened as the Illinois State Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in 1851 and for more than a century was one of the city’s largest employers. The facility was literally a small city within a city, complete with buildings and services to care for the thousands of people who received treatment there. 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 State of Illinois closed the facility in 2012.

Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman Allan Worrell said in a press release that the facility is one of the crucial pieces of the city’s history: “The Jacksonville Developmental Center is one of those institutions that is synonymous with the history of our community. 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 5th, with the exhibit opening up to the public on Saturday.

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.

The exhibit may move from time to time this summer as the museum begins its Phase II expansion.