Nov 15, 2022
The exhibition “The Willard Suitcases,” organized by photographer Jon Crispin, will be extended until Dec. 4 at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University.
The exhibition came about after the closing of the Willard Psychiatric Hospital in the Finger Lakes region of New York state in 1995. At that time, employees tasked with cleaning out the building found hundreds of suitcases in an attic of an abandoned building. Many of them appeared untouched since their owners, patients at Willard, brought them to the institution several decades earlier.
The exhibition contains 30 framed photographs and text panels. Karen L. Miller, M.D., a psychiatrist, conducted research at the New York State Archives in connection with this project and has written text panels about 10 of the patients whose suitcases have survived. Her clinical examination of the medical files shed some light on the patients’ initial diagnoses and treatment and provide likely 21st century diagnoses and treatment.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Quick Center hosted a panel discussion about the advancement of mental health services from institutions like Willard to more person-centered, community-based services. A link to view the panel discussion is at https://video.ibm.com/recorded/132195625.
Taking part in the panel discussion were photographer Jon Crispin; Dr. Laurence Guttmacher, M.D., professor emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center; Mary O’Leary, director of Cattaraugus County Community Services; and Ashley Luedke, Ph.D., LMHC, associate professor and chair of the SBU Counseling Education Program.
The exhibition and panel discussion were made possible by a $4,360 Humanities New York Vision Grant. These grants are federally funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities and provide funding to implement humanities projects that encourage public audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community.