Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Willard Suitcase Exhibit

Quite a while ago I came upon the Willard Suitcase Exhibit online and found it disconcerting, yet fascinating. While there is a traveling exhibit one can see at many venues across the country, the online exhibit of The Lives They Left Behind ~ Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, certainly gives you a good idea of what it is all about.

{attic where suitcases were found ~ men's on one side, women's on the other}

Basically, the Willard Asylum/Willard Psychiatric Center operated in some form from 1869 ~ 1995, when its doors were closed and several staff members and a museum curator worked to save artifacts left behind. Almost 400 suitcases were found labeled and alphabetized ~ untouched for years ~ the suitcases were moved to a NY State Museum's warehouse where they were later examined more closely and researched further resulting in a major exhibition in 2004 at the NY State Museum. The researchers were able to match residents of the asylum with their specific belongings and memorialize their lives in a respectful way.

{ filled steamer trunk}

{Margaret's personal photos and keepsakes}

{ID card or record?}

Below are several of the suitcase owners whose lives are written about on the online exhibit. You can read more about those below and seven others here ~ click on 'the suitcases' once you enter the online exhibit.

{various photos of Frank}

{Madeline ~ resided at Willard for 47 years}


{Willard Asylum}

It is interesting to note that over 50,000 patients were admitted to Willard over the years ~ nearly half of those patients died there. All images via.


evencleveland said...

Terrible and fascinating. All those lives - I can't get over the beautiful young woman who was there for 47 years. I wonder what her story was, what all the stories are. The photos and suitcases are tantalizing fragments.

(ps: I just found your blog through d. sharp - wow. It's a feast of things beautiful, thought-provoking, and inspiring. What a treat for a Thursday.)

Uncle Beefy said...

wow...I am speechless. That was amazing and heartbreaking and fascinating. They did a wonderful job in curating the exhibit. Thank you for sharing, Julie.

Kasey said...

what a wonderful story, so intruiging.

Recycled Rita said...

This was creepy and interesting and a wonderful visual all at the same time! What an interesting exhibit, thanks for letting us know about it!
karen b...