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The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic

The exhibit will be open to the public at The Stanley, Romano Room, May, 1st - May 25th. Hours of operation are as follows:
Wednesday: 11am-7pm
Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday: 11am-7pm
Saturday: 12pm-5pm
Sunday: 12pm-5pm.

Exhbit entrance is the Romano Room Side Door located off of Genesee Street inbetween Acora and The Stanley Box Office.

* Handicap entrace available from 11am-5pm on weekdays. Appoinments for elevator use are suggested. call 315-724-4000 for an appointment.

Could you pack the essence of your lifetime into a suitcase?  The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From A State Hospital Attic, an exhibition coming to The Stanley does exactly that.

In 1995, during the closure of Willard Psychiatric Center in New York’s Finger Lakes region, several hundred suitcases filled with the personal belongings of former patients were discovered in the hospital attic.  The suitcases and their contents bear witness to the rich, complex lives these people led before they were committed to Willard – and speak to their aspirations, accomplishments, and community connections, as well as to loss and isolation.  From the clothing and personal objects left behind, we can gain some understanding of who these people were before they disappeared behind hospital walls.  The pictures and stories illustrate the ordinary lives these people led: they raised families, had jobs, were educated and traveled, fell in love, and faced misfortune.  For many, dealing with hardships sealed their fate to a lifetime in a mental hospital. 

“The Lives They Left Behind” was created by The Community Consortium, an organization of people with psychiatric histories and their allies, to honor the memories of these people and others like them who were removed from their communities and institutionalized.  This exhibit provides insight into psychiatric institutions in the early-mid 20th century, and also raises some difficult and compelling questions:

Why were they committed?  Sr. Roderigo, #15902, an educated, upper class Filipino, grew depressed and heard voices accusing him of being a sinner, at which point his employer had him committed.  He was 29 years old.  This observation was later placed in his file: “Years of Institutionalization appear to have been a mistake, as far as duration, as this man appears in perfect mental condition now.” 

How were they treated? Mr. Dmytro, #32643, after coping with the loss of his wife and child, became convinced that he was supposed to marry President Truman’s daughter.  During his stay at Willard, the staff had trouble understanding his thick Ukrainian accent and he was given twenty electroshock treatments, which did not improve his condition.

Where were their friends and family?  Mrs. Ethel, #20756, was visited by her grown children 3 times early in her admission.  After that she received no other visits, even though her daughter-in-law worked at the hospital.

The exhibit will be offered locally by Catholic Charities of Oneida and Madison Counties, an organization dedicated to Creating Hope and Transforming Lives in those suffering.

The exhibition is open to the public at The Stanley, Romano Room, from April 30th-May 25th. The exhibit will be open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11am-7pm and Saturday and Sunday 12pm-5pm, for a donation of $5.00. Children 12 and under free. For more information and reservations for a school group, please contact Development Director Tara D’Amico at (315) 724-2158 x 247 or www.catholiccharitiesom.org.

 The Lives They Left Behind is circulated by The Exhibition Alliance of Hamilton, NY – www.exhibitionalliance.org.

Showtimes

  • Wed Apr 30, 2014
    Showtime: 5:00 PM
  • Sun May 25, 2014
    Showtime: 12:00 PM


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