There but for grace

willard-suitcases-1When patients were committed to the Willard Asylum for the Insane in Upstate New York, most arrived with a suitcase packed with whatever possessions they thought they might need for their time inside.

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article-2338714-1A3BDB87000005DC-736_964x640 23626suitcaseAarticle-2338714-1A3BDB3F000005DC-3_964x640Willard inmates were committed any number of reasons including epilepsy, “promiscuity,” postpartum or menopausal depression, homosexuality, “shell shock,” “disobedience,” and the like.
article-2338714-1A3BFE82000005DC-902_964x640article-2338714-1A3BDBCB000005DC-105_964x640article-2338714-1A3BD883000005DC-718_964x640article-2338714-1A3BFF5A000005DC-137_964x640Many were committed by family members, and most never left.

article-2338714-1A3BD977000005DC-878_964x640The average patient stay at Willard lasted for 30 years, & when those patients died, they were buried in graves across the street from the asylum, their suitcases locked in an attic & forgotten.

article-2338714-1A3BD71F000005DC-179_964x640Willard Suitcases Project Case Irma Mei ©2013 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED20130716049
In 1995, an employee of the mental hospital discovered 400 of those suitcases, dating from 1910 to 1960.

Willard Suitcases Project Case Irma Mei ©2013 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDPhotographer Jon Crispin’s photographs of those suitcases and their contents are currently featured as part of an exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium, ‘The Changing Face of What is Normal.’

article-2338714-1A3BD813000005DC-997_964x640 More here and here and here.