Poster about visits to the leprosy hospital 

Poster about visits to the leprosy hospital. Regional State Archives of Bergen.

How do you feel when you see this poster? Do you see the doctor making his calls with a small group of curious and interested visitors, and the patients feeling like curiosities being studied in their own rooms?

We don’t really know much about the origin of this poster, but it is probably from Pleiestiftelsen Hospital, either from the late 1800s or early 1900s.

At the time, leprosy was not widespread in Europe, and the number of sick people in Norway in general, and the number admitted to hospital, was steadily declining. Lungegaard Hospital was closed in 1895, Reitgjerdet Hospital in 1920, and the last patients from both hospitals were transferred to Pleiestiftelsen. There were still some residents at St. Jørgen’s Hospital, but Pleiestiftelsen was now the only leprosy hospital offering any kind of medical services.

Hansen and the work going on in Norway to combat the disease were recognised worldwide, and many people wanted to visit to learn more. Others were perhaps just curious about an old disease shrouded in mystery, and were keen to meet someone who had it.

For the residents of Pleiestiftelsen, this attention must have been a mixed blessing. Many would probably have felt relieved by the decision that at least it was only doctors who could ask to join visits.

Nicolai Ordahl, who was employed at Pleiestiftelsen as a young man in 1898-1999, recounted that doctors from for example Germany, England and the United States often visited to talk to the doctors, be shown around and meet the patients. 

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