The Willard Suitcases: A collection by Massachusetts-based photographer Jon Crispin
Imagine you were being sent away to a mental institution, something that happened frequently through the twentieth century to people with maladies ranging from depression to severe psychiatric illness.
What would you bring with you?
That’s a question answered by photographs of hundreds of patient suitcases, some stored more than eighty years at upstate New York’s Willard Psychiatric Center with their contents intact. These silent testimonials were forgotten until the hospital’s decommissioning, when the suitcases were discovered in the attic.
Since 2011, Jon Crispin has been lovingly and meticulously documenting the cases, the contents of which tell silent stories of the lives patients left behind and the hopes and fears they brought with them.
The event will gather the public to discuss ways of preserving the legacy of Dorothea Dix Hospital. Crispin will present his visual lecture at a convening, Sunday, Oct. 16, which also features presentations on the history of Dix Hospital, oral histories given by former patients, staff and family members from Dix, a facilitated discussion of a proposed memorial to the site and an optional tour of the Dix property.
Open to the public. Information & registration www.LivesontheHill.org