The suitcase room at West Park Asylum. The cases wait quietly on the shelves, perhaps knowing that they are only destined to travel as far as a big heap of rubble when this part of the asylum is finally demolished. Some are labelled with the names of patients, one that I opened contained something unspeakable and a terrible smell, another on the floor still housed a few clothes, tangled together in a folorn heap. Yet still the cases are smiling, their cheerful little cardboard and canvas faces grinning at the empty room – are they remembering those journeys they have made, travels to foreign lands, hot sun or freezing snow? I like to think so.
An addition to this post: a friend saw this photograph and sent me a link to the Willard Suitcase Exhibition about suitcases found in the attics of Willard Psychiatric Center in New York’s Finger Lakes when it closed in 1995. This well constructed and extremely moving site pays tribute to just some of the owners of these found suitcases, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough – required viewing I’d say.