Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Names

9-9-10 03-23+ PM wp

I just got word that the governor of New York State has signed Senate Bill S840A.  Here is the summary of the bill;  “(Senate Bill S840A ) relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries; directs the release of the name, birthdate and date of death of certain patients 50 years after the date of death”.  I am not totally clear about what “certain patients” means, and to whom this information may be released, but this is certainly good news.  Here is a link to two earlier posts I did about the cemetery and the whole issue of names.  Click on Coleen Spellecy’s and Lin Stuhler’s links to read about the two people who did the most to get this bill through the legislature.  And thanks to Joe Robach for being persistent in getting the bill passed and signed into law.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

The issue of not being allowed to name the owners of the suitcases has always bothered me.  I have been expressly told by both the New York State Museum and the New York Office of Mental Health that due to state law, I am forbidden to use the surnames of the patients when I publish the photographs, even though some of those names have already been mentioned in local newspapers and in other sources.  I feel that not using surnames continues to dehumanize the folks who were already stigmatized just by being patients at Willard.  Due to this new law, it might be possible, in some instances, to begin using full names.  All in all, this is a pretty exciting development.

Thanks for following and check out the suitcases site to see the latest.

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