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Exhibit offers insight into lives of state mental hospital patients

Dr. Ruth Moskop, curator of history collections, arranges part of the "Suitcases" exhibit at Laupus Library. Photo by Cliff Hollis
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (July 11, 2008)   —   An exhibit at East Carolina University's Laupus Library will offer visitors insight into the treatment of people with mental illness.

"The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic" is based on the contents of hundreds of abandoned suitcases found in the attic of Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, N.Y., when it closed in 1995 after 126 years of operation. The exhibit will be available July 18 through Sept. 9 in the Evelyn F. Laupus Gallery on the fourth floor of the library during regular operating hours.

The 1,500-square-foot exhibit consists of a series of free-standing kiosks that present stories from the lives of men and women who were involuntarily admitted to the state hospital from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. Actual suitcases will not be on display.

The exhibit offers historical insight into the aspirations and accomplishments, and loss and isolation, of people with mental illness. For more information, visit For library hours, go to Metered parking is available in front of the library.

"The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic" was developed by The Community Consortium and is circulated by the Exhibition Alliance Inc. in Hamilton, N.Y. It is curated by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny and funded by the van Ameringen Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Individuals with disabilities requesting accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the Department for Disability Support Services at 252-328-6799 (V) or 252-328-0899 (TTY).


Contact: Crystal Baity | 252-744-2481