One of my colleagues sent this link to me. It’s the haunting and fascinating Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online. Willard was a state psych hospital and after its closing, workers found a bunch of suitcases and trunks in the building’s attics. Apparently these were the belongings of the patients that they brought with them when they were admitted. Many of these patients never left the facility.

The history of the treatment of the mentally ill always gets to me. A number of these patients were admitted when they really didn’t suffer from mental illness. There’s one account of a man who was a Japanese sailor on leave who got lost in New York. He didn’t speak English and people thought he was behaving oddly. He was sent to Bellevue and then moved to Willard. He stayed there for over 30 years.


One response to “Suitcases

  1. Michelle, thanks so much for this post. I didn’t know about this particular exhibit but it makes total sense. As someone who spent years trying to help people heal from their mental health related problems, and worse, the problems of being misinterpreted (as with the Japanese gentleman) I am grateful for those who keep these stories alive. I met so many who were hospitalized for their opposing politics in the 1950s.