Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Suitcases

When the Willard Psychiatric Center near Albany NY was closed in 1995, 400 inmate suitcases were found in an attic, covered in dust. They contained the belongings of patients at the moment of their arrival (many expected short stays): letters, photographs, books, diaries, even handmade quilts, silk gloves, sheet music. I remember reading about the 2004 exhibit at the New York State Museum, and wishing I could see it. Now, there's a new online version, and a touring version too, so many more of us can explore these artifacts and learn more about the suitcases and their owners. Never has "Click to Enter" seemed so ominous a request.

The bricks-and-mortar version, and its online successor, share the structure of presenting a few of the suitcase owners' stories in detail, drawn from their own possessions and the hospital's records of their decades as inmates. As it's my research interest, I'm caught most by the women's stories:
  • Theresa was German-born, a nun known as Sister Marie Ursuline. When her assigned mission in North Dakota failed, she was adrift. She returned to New York, and hoped her father could help her return to Germany, but in 1917 her letter was stopped under wartime restrictions. She was confused, but insisted "I don't hear voices, I don't see visions. I feel silly--I am not crazy--I am nervous." She stayed at Willard for 30 years.
  • Ethel was a gifted needlecrafter, who raised her two children by working as a seamstress after she left her abusive husband. In 1930, a landlady complained of Ethel's refusal to be evicted, and Ethel was committed to Willard. She stayed for 43 years. In that time, her grown children visited her three times.
  • Madeline (shown above, before and during hospitalization) was a Sorbonne graduate, who taught French at various girls' schools in the US. She was interested in the occult, which was enough to render her "unemployable" during the Depression, so in 1931 she too was committed to a psychiatric unit, and eventually arrived at Willard, furious: "I want out of here immediately. I think it is an outrage to be here." She stayed for 47 years.
One of the men stayed for 62 years, from 1919 to 1981--even hospital officials admitted in the 1960s that his admission was "a mistake." And these are only a few stories from hundreds found in the attic, from many thousands at Willard and other similar hospitals across the US. Go look in their eyes; look through their possessions (which no heir has come to claim); many had family, friends, jobs, cars, skills, college degrees. Nonetheless, it didn't take much for circumstances to place them all in a mental hospital for life. And only now are their stories being told.

[Thanks to Arlene Wilson for giving us the link to this online exhibit in comments.--PLR]


Arlene Wilson said...

You are welcomed!

as said...

I like your blog. Thank you. They are really great . Ermunterung ++ .
Some new style Puma Speed is in fashion this year.
chaussure puma is Puma shoes in french . Many Franzose like seach “chaussure sport” by the internet when they need buy the Puma Shoes Or nike max shoes. The information age is really convenient .

By the way ,the nike max ltd is really good NIKE air shoes ,don’t forget buy the puma mens shoes and nike air max ltd by the internet when you need them . Do you know Nike Air Shoes is a best Air Shoes . another kinds of Nike shoes is better . For example , Nike Air Rift is good and Cheap Nike Shoes .the nike shox shoes is fitting to running.

Spring is coming, Do you think this season is not for Ugg Boots? maybe yes .but this season is best time that can buy the cheap ugg boots. Many sellers are selling discounted. Do not miss . Please view my fc2 blog and hair straighteners blog.
.thank you .

I like orange converse shoes ,I like to buy the cheap converse shoes by the internet shop . the puma shoes and the adidas shoes (or addidas shoes) are more on internet shop .i can buy the cheap nike shoes and cheap puma shoes online. It’s really convenient.
Many persons more like Puma basket shoes than nike air rift shoes . the Puma Cat shoes is a kind of Cheap Puma Shoes .
If you want to buy the Cheap Nike Air shoes ,you can buy them online. They are same as the Nike Air shoes authorized shop. Very high-caliber Air shoes and puma cat shoes . the cheap puma shoes as same as other.

polo shirts

ralph lauren polo shirts
chaussure puma
chaussure sport chaussures pumapuma CATed hardy clothing ed hardy clothesed hardy womens ed hardy sunglassesugg bootscheap ugg boots

Will said...

I agree with you. good job. i have a ed hardy online store, I offer great brands at great prices.you may buy the ed hardy womens shirt in discount price these days .it's good gift for your girl . the best hot item is spyder jackets in the autumn.but some guy think the cheap columbia jackets better.

Anonymous said...

Replica Handbags
Fake Handbags
Knockoff Handbags

Replica Louis Vuitton Handbags
Replica Gucci Handbags
Replica Chanel Handbags
Prada Handbags
Replica Fendi Handbags
Replica Dolce Gabbana Handbags
Replica Chloe Handbags
Replica Jimmy Choo Handbags
Replica Thomas Wylde Handbags
Replica MiuMiu Handbags

Replica Balenciaga Handbags
Replica Coach Handbags
Replica Lancel Handbags
Replica Hermes Handbags
Replica Marc Jacobs Handbags
Replica Anya Hindmarch Handbags
Replica YSL Handbags
Replica Mulberry Handbags
Replica Givenchy Handbags
Replica Valentino Handbags
Replica Versace Handbags
Replica Cartier Handbags
Replica Marni Handbags
Replica Bottega Veneta Handbags
Replica Loewe Handbags
Replica Kooba Handbags

Replica Bally Handbags
Replica Burberry Handbags
Replica Christian Dior Handbags
Replica Juicy Couture Handbags
Replica Ferragamo Handbags
Replica Celine Handbags

freefun0616 said...



HONG said...

nike air max 90
nike air max 95
nike air max tn
nike air rift
nike shox r4
nike air max 360
nike shox nz
puma mens shoes
puma shoes
puma speed
nike shoes
nike air
nike air shoes
puma cat
air max trainers
mens nike air max
nike shoes air max
nike shoes shox
air shoes
nike shoe cart
puma future
cheap puma
sports shoes
nike air rifts
nike air rift trainer
nike air
nike rift
nike rift shoes
cheap nike air rifts
bape shoes
jeans shop
diesel jeans
levis jeans