WMHI: Julaine Farrow Museum

The Julaine Farrow Museum showcases the history of the treatment of individuals living with mental health concerns in Wisconsin. It is open to the public.

WMHI Museum LabTwo Floors, 10 Rooms

The Julaine Farrow Museum is located in the house once occupied by the WMHI superintendent. There are 10 rooms of exhibits on two floors. Each room features artifacts and objects used at WMHI for diagnosis, daily cares, treatment, and other work. The displays also include drawings and photographs.

The first floor provides an overview of the facility’s history with various collections and pieces of furniture spread throughout the rooms.

The second floor provides the opportunity to walk through recreated spaces, including a surgery room, a hydrotherapy treatment room, the medical superintendent’s bedroom, and a pharmacy.

Visitors learn who worked at WMHI, how treatment for mental illness has evolved since WMHI opened in 1873, and what daily life was like for patients and staff over the years.

Free Admission

Thursdays (February-October)
1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

To learn more about the Julaine Farrow Museum, including information on the collection, exhibits, tours, and how to contribute items, call 920-235-4910, ext. 2424 or 920-235-4910, ext. 2311.



History of the Museum

Exterior photo of the WMHI museum building taken from side. Date unknown.The idea of a museum for WMHI originated in the 1950s when a group of employees at what was then known as Winnebago State Hospital wanted to share with the public the progress in mental health treatment. It took many years for this group of staff to gain support for their idea. In the early 1960s, the Board of Health and Social Services passed a resolution designating the preservation of what was at the time a blacksmith shop on the hospital campus to become home to a museum.


Three long-time employees are credited with creating the museum. Julaine Farrow, the museum's namesake, was known as the unofficial hospital historian during her tenure as a nurse. She gathered many of the antiques and archived materials housed at the museum. Paul Theis was the hospital's first management services director. James O'Reilly was the hospital's volunteer services coordinator during this time. Employees who helped carry on the work of this team include Diane Meschefske and Brenda Wiley.

Museum opened in 1976

Staff stepped up their efforts to create a museum in 1973, the hospital's centennial year. A formal dedication of the museum in the blacksmith shop was held on September 28, 1976. The speakers included WMHI Superintendent Dr. Darold Treffert and Dr. William Studley, a member of the Board of Health and Social Services. In 1989, the museum moved from the blacksmith shop to the old superintendent's house, its current location. 

Biography of Julaine Farrow

Photo of Julaine Farrow, the namesake of the WMHI museum. She worked at WMHI for 36 years.Julaine Farrow is credited with leading the effort to create a museum to chronicle the history of WMHI.

Preserving WMHI History was One of Her Passions

Farrow grew up near WMHI. She was born in Oshkosh in 1917. She attended public schools in Oshkosh. In 1938, she graduated from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. She joined the staff at WMHI later that year.

Farrow was passionate about nursing. She worked at WMHI for 36 years, providing direct care to patients as a staff nurse and in management roles, including as associate director of nursing. In her early years, she provided therapies to patients. In 1941, during her first stint as acting director of nursing, she became an instructor and mentor in the hospital's nursing school. She also served as acting director of nursing in 1960 and 1966. In her later years, she actively supervised many nursing students who came to the hospital to do their clinical nursing rotation. She also worked with students in the licensed practical nursing program.

Farrow's other passion included the preservation of the history of WMHI. To mark the facility's centennial in 1973, she wrote a book that chronicled the development of the hospital and its services. In the preface to the book, Dr. Donald Treffret, who served as WMHI superintendent from 1964-1979, wrote that, "her concern for the hospital and its history, nursing service and its responsibilities, the students and their training, has been superseded only by indefatigable concern for Winnebago's patients and their welfare. While the terms 'ombudsman' and 'advocate' may be new, that function and empathic concern have been carried out ably by her in all of her 36 years here."

Farrow retired in 1974. After her retirement, she was active as a WMHI volunteer. She gathered and maintained artifacts, objects, and papers related to the hospital's history.

Farrow died in 1991.


The Julaine Farrow Museum is managed by a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the history of WMHI. 


Last Revised: October 4, 2019