The Willard Suitcases Project
27 years ago, workers at a psychiatric center in the Finger Lakes made a remarkable discovery. Willard Psychiatric Center in Ovid opened in 1869; it was then called the Willard Asylum for the Insane. For more than 125 years, the staff cared for people with long-term mental illness. When it closed in 1995, workers discovered hundreds of suitcases belonging to former patients that appeared to be untouched since their arrival at the center. The finding was essentially a time capsule.
Photographer Jon Crispin has captured the discovery in his "Willard Suitcases Project." He writes, "The suitcases and their contents bear witness to the rich, complex lives their owners lived prior to being committed to Willard. They speak about aspirations, accomplishments, community connections, but also about loss and isolation."
Crispin's work is on view at St. John Fisher College. This hour, we explore what he has learned through his research, and we discuss life at Willard and how mental health care has changed over the century. Our guests: