The people memorialized by the Suitcase Project spent decades at Willard; most of them died there. They were basically discarded by society, but each of them has a fascinating and often heartbreaking personal story. They had careers, families, artistic or intellectual aspirations; many had dealt with significant personal losses. Each of their stories provides an opening to consider some of the broader issues that affected these people: poverty, poor health, trauma, displacement, loss of loved ones, voice-hearing and idiosyncratic beliefs, religious guilt and acts of redemption, and the many ways the psychiatric system failed them.
Legal concerns prevented us from offering the suitcase owners the dignity of using their full names, which would have been our preference. Instead, we are using each person's honorific title, first name and their hospital serial number.