Willard Asylum for the Insane, located in New York, was built in 1869. The average patient stay was 30 years and many who came to the hospital never left. The site was abandoned, until, in 1995, a spine-tingling discovery was made in the attic…
Over 400 suitcases, each packed with the belongings of people who lived and died decades ago, were found. Each one serves as a time capsule of their lives before being committed to the Asylum.
I is believed that many of these people had been abandoned by their families. When they passed away, they were buried in unmarked graves, and their belongings were packed away and forgotten.
Photographer Jon Crispin has spent years bringing back to life into these abandoned suitcases and their memories by documenting the bags and their contents in a series of photos.
He said: “It’s such compelling stuff. These people were essentially prisoners inside. Their families largely abandoned them. They gave them a suitcase and had them committed. Looking at these suitcases, you just get the idea that that these people really had lives outside before they went to Willard.”
Each suitcase has its own unique tale to tell.
Some are enveloped in sadness, where as others are bursting with personality.
The photographs and 14 original suitcases were recently on display.
The exhibit also featured “Restraint”, an installation that looked at the various methods used to restrain mental patients over the years. Viewers were invited to try them all, from a 19th-century cage made of wood to the modern-day straight jacket.
While some items make a lot of sense, like this handy clock, others are shrouded in mystery. Why would you bring a broom to hospital?
The exhibit closed in 2014.
If you had to pack one suitcase to capture and describe your life what would you put in it?
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