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New Exhibit, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic at Museum of disABILITY History

Feb 19, 2015

Exhibit inspires dialogue about the treatment of those with mental illness 

January 19, 2015: The Museum of disABILITY History will host the limited-time traveling exhibit, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, with a grand opening event on Friday, February 27, at 6 p.m., at 3826 Main Street, Buffalo. In 1995, when the Willard Psychiatric Center, located in the Finger Lakes region of NY, closed its doors, an incredible discovery was made in the attic: hundreds of suitcases, untouched for decades, filled with the most important belongings of their former owners. This incredible collection of personal belongings was carefully removed and has become a tribute to the lives of those patients. Their stories are now told through this moving exhibit. 

The history of mental illness is often forgotten or dismissed. The exhibit offers a patient-centered view of the history of psychiatry, while honoring the memories of those who packed the suitcases, and hopes to inspire dialogue about the treatment of those with mental illness. 

The exhibit will be on display at the Museum of disABILITY History until April 11. The exhibit was created by The Community Consortium, an organization that works to promote the full citizenship and civil rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.

The grand opening event is a fundraiser for the Museum of disABILITY History. Admission is $25, which includes wine and hors d’oeuvres. For more information, go to or call 716-629-3626. Reservations for the opening event are required.

The Museum of disABILITY History, a project of People Inc., is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and display of artifacts relating to the history of people with disabilities. The mission is to tell the story of the lives, triumphs, and struggles of people with disabilities as well as society’s reactions. The Museum of disABILITY History, located at 3826 Main Street in Buffalo, NY, offers educational exhibits, programs and activities that expand community awareness.