I recently finished reading a fascinating book a fellow Soomoan recommended to me, called The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic . In 1995, after the Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York closed, more than 400 suitcases belonging to former patients were discovered in the attic. The authors spent a decade researching just 10 of these patients and chronicled what they could of their lives.
The accompanying museum exhibit has a Flash website with a brief bio of the patients and the Facebook page includes historic photos as well as color images from the book's photographer, Lisa Rinzler. The most heartbreaking, to me, of the patients is Herman, a man who developed a love for photography at a colony for epileptics but was transferred to Willard and disallowed access to his cameras for his remaining 35 years.
The book and exhibit are both heartfelt and provide a sobering view of psychiatric care in the 20th century, but I still wanted to know more about the owners of the other suitcases. So I was happy to hear that photographer Jon Crispin submitted a related project to Kickstarter and it was successfully funded. Here's the video from the ongoing Willard Asylum Suitcase Documentation project.
Crispin posts preview photos from his sessions with the suitcases on his blog, but it's a little tough to find them, so here's a complete list of links to date:
- Eleanor #1, #2, and #3