Suitcases of the insane – photographs by Jon Crispin

These suitcases have been in storage for at least half a century. They contain the personal belongings of inmates of a mental institution that were admitted bewteen 1910 and 1960. The staff couldn’t bear to  throw them away when the inmates died so they were stored in the attic. Mens cases on one side and womens on the other.


“In 1995, the New York State Museum was moving items out of the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, NY which was being closed by the State Office of Mental Health.  It would eventually become a state-run drug rehabilitation center.  Craig Williams and his staff became aware of an attic full of suitcases in the pathology lab building.  The cases were put into storage when their owners were admitted to Willard sometime between 1910 and the 1960s. And since the facility was set up to help people with chronic mental illness, these folks never left.  An exhibit of a small selection of the cases was produced by the Museum and was on display in Albany in 2003.  It was very moving to read the stories of these people, and to see objects from their lives before they became residents of Willard.”

The video below, and the text above is from the funding site Kickstarter but it explains Jon Crispin’s work much better than I can.

There are hundreds of photographs, each case is a story untold