haunting

“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.”

That’s how this article about stories, suitcases, mental illness, institutionalization, and memory begins. It’s an interview with photographer, Jon Crispin, about his project photographing the suitcases left behind at one psychiatric institution. I’ll let this photographer tell it for himself, as he does it very well. This is, I think, an important and thoughtful project that brings – carefully, respectfully and, indeed, reverently – some light to the stories of a messy, ugly and unfortunate history.

Abandoned suitcases and private lives. so many stories. so many fragments. who were these people? who were they, really? And in looking at their stories, who are we?

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