Ever want to lay on famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s couch?

You can now — at the new National Museum of Psychology at the University of Akron that celebrates its grand opening Wednesday.

UA officials hope the museum, showcasing the largest collection of psychological material of its kind in the world, will become a regional destination spot.

“I think it will be enough to get people off the highway to come and see. It’s impressive,” said David Baker, executive director of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, which houses the museum.

It features antique psychological testing equipment, film of a home-raised chimpanzee, vintage texts and lots more from the center’s archives of documents, texts, films, photographs and artifacts.

“Many of the items have never been displayed before,” Baker said.

Freud’s couch? Actually, it’s a replica — covered in a rug — in a mock-up of the office in Vienna, Austria, where Freud pioneered talk therapy. Visitors are invited to take a selfie on it.

The over-arching theme of the center — as well as the museum — Baker said, “is exploring what it means to be human.”

Psychology, Baker said, is a human science. “Everybody is a psychologist,” he said. “We all draw inferences about ourselves and others.”

Baker, who joined the university in 1999, said he knew early on “it was important to be able to share this wealth of material that we have with as wide an audience as possible.”

From a gallery

At about 6,500-square feet, the museum is more than triple the size of the small gallery of artifacts it replaced in the Center for the History of Psychology.

The museum is on the first floor of the center, on the northern edge of the UA campus in the red-brick former Roadway Express trucking company building at Mill and College streets, next to the United Methodist Church.

Metered parking spaces are along College street. Center officials are working on getting additional parking.

“We used to be hesitant to call the gallery a museum,” Cathy Faye, the center’s assistant director, said. “Now we’re not ... the exhibits are all new.”

The dozens of exhibits — some interactive — as well as smaller displays, were developed by Dennis Barrie and his wife, Kathy.

Dennis Barrie is co-creator of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a former executive director there. Barrie Projects has done work for some 20 museums, including the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and the not-yet-open U.S. Olympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.

At the Akron museum, a favorite exhibit of Dennis Barrie’s is one focusing on the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. It includes a mock prison uniform and door used in the 1971 study at Stanford University.

For the experiment, college students at the school in Palo Alto, Calif., were guards in a mock prison and others were prisoners.

The planned two-week study ended after six days because the scene turned ugly, with some students taking on the role of prison guard too well.

The study resonates today, Barrie said: “Your psychology can change when you’re put in different environments.”

Exploring the psyche

The museum is divided into three sections: psychology as a profession, as an agent of social change and psychology as a science.

Exhibits dealing with the treatment of mental illness, the rise of talk therapy, psychology in advertising, intelligence testing and more are featured in the profession section.

In the social change section, visitors learn about psychological research on race in the 1950s and other areas, including changing ideas about human sexuality.

Visitors learn about psychology has been used to understand the brain, as well as animal behavior, in the psychology as a science section.

Throughout, visitors learn about the evolution of psychology and how relatively young it is as a science, as well as how it intertwines with everyday life and popular culture.

“How many people know Wonder Woman was developed by a psychologist?” said Faye, the center’s assistant director. She said this as she motioned to a video display that includes an image of the super hero created during World War II by psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter.

Other images in this display tell about psychologist Harry Hollingworth’s work in 1911 for Coca-Cola Co. about the effects of caffeine. The study is an early example of psychological research done for a corporation.

At the time, the U.S. government was suing Coca-Cola, arguing that caffeine — an ingredient in the beverage — was harmful. The study refuted the claims.

Collection’s origin

John A. Popplestone and Marion White McPherson, a married couple who taught psychology at UA, started a collection of psychology manuscripts and other items in 1965. They dubbed it the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

They found success, with colleagues eager to turn over their private papers and material. The archives — visited by researchers from all over the world — include papers from more than 700 psychologists and some 2,000 objects — some dating to the late 1800s, the beginnings of psychological science.

In 2010, the archives moved from the basement of the university’s Polsky Building in downtown Akron to the building donated by Roadway Express.

With the move, the archives became the Center for the History of Psychology, including the archives and the new museum.

In 2014, psychologist Nicholas Cummings, 93, and his wife, Dorothy, contributed $3.5 million to continue renovations at the center. This was after a $1.5 million gift to the university.

The new museum was paid for with a portion of the Cummings’ donation, as well as other private donations. Renovation of the third and fourth floors of the building continues for the Institute for Human Science and Culture, which is part of the center.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com.

Unusual objects fill psychology museum, including restraining bed from old asylum, and a “shock box” from infamous study at Yale University. A4