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Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients

Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients
If you were committed to a psychiatric institution, unsure if you’d ever return to the life you knew before, what would you take with you? That sobering question hovers like an apparition over each of the Willard Asylum suitcases. From the 1910s through the 1960s, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away, with nobody to claim them. Upon the center’s closure in 1995, employees found hundreds of these time capsules stored in a locked attic. Working with the New York State Museum, former Willard staffers were able to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection. “There were many patients in these asylums who were probably not unlike friends you and I have now.” Photographer Jon Crispin has long been drawn to the ghostly remains of abandoned psychiatric institutions. Crispin’s photographs restore a bit of dignity to the individuals who spent their lives within Willard’s walls. Freda’s suitcase.

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/abandoned-suitcases-reveal-private-lives-of-insane-asylum-patients/

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Willard Suitcases: Unpacking The Rest by Jon Crispin In 1995, when the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, NY was closed, staff members were surveying the contents of the buildings when they discovered an attic containing over 400 patient suitcases. The cases dated from between 1910 and the late 1960s, and were saved by Willard employees after the deaths of the patients. My photographs tell the story of these people through the objects they brought when they were admitted to Willard. They had lives that were complicated, varied, and in many cases, compelling, and I am honored to be able to restore their identities as more than just patients in a psychiatric facility. When I began photographing the collection of Willard Asylum suitcases in March of 2011, my plan was to feature only the ones that contained the most materials.

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