A new exhibit is opening at The Frick Fine Arts Gallery in Oakland today. It’s called The Lives They Left Behind, Suitcases from A State Hospital Attic.
In 1995 when Willard State Hospital in upstate New York was closing, workers found photographs and diaries, bibles and curling irons, sheet music and military uniforms in hundreds of suitcases in a building attic. Each suitcase was a time capsule full of clues about who their owners were before lengthy hospitalizations.
Darby Penney, a mental health advocate and Peter Stastny, a psychiatrist, spent years doing research on the suitcases, consulting medical records, interviewing former employees, etc. What they found has become The Lives They Left Behind, a museum exhibit, a book and a glimpse into who some of the hundreds of thousands of people who lived and died in state hospitals were in the last century.
Listen to the story here.