A memorial project for the Massachusetts Mental Health Center

  • AFTER 91 YEARS...

    of continuous operation the original buildings of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) - formerly the Boston Psychopathic Hospital - closed in November of 2003. The staff and services were moved to the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain, MA, and a new facility will replace the old building of MMHC, to which the staff and services are to return by 2012.

    When a building is closed after nine decades of continuous use its long history moves from a physical setting to an abstract place in the memory of those who had been there. In the course of closing the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, the people who worked and stayed in this building for years, whose lives were affected - often unconsciously - by its dimensions, directions, and traffic ways, are moved to a new environment. In the end, it is their memories that remain deeply connected with the site and keep it alive in the realm of the imagination.

    To mark the transition of the original building of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center from the physical shape it has been, to the remembered, artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to create a site-specific project. She proposed the following project:

    • to create a community remembrance in honor of the former life of this building, its generations of clients, employees, researchers, and trainees
    • to raise awareness of its long history and tradition of care and treatment
    • to offer a dedication of time, energy, and hope from those involved in this remembrance effort, to those in whose memory it is created
    • to give something that has not been given to this place before: palettes of color, texture, and scent. A communal gesture of reflection, consideration, discussion, and closure.

    Anna Schuleit's installation project was created within the entire building of MMHC, on all floors, inviting former patients and employees, staff, students, and the general public, to re-visit the historic site once more before its closing. There was also a symposium at a nearby venue, and an open forum on the front steps of MMHC, during which the patients were invited to tell their stories. The events were dedicated to the memory of the thousands of patients of MMHC, and included as many of them as we were able to contact, as well as the doctors, nurses, support staff, researchers, students, and the general public. The project was a non-profit effort run entirely by volunteers and all of the events were free and open to all.

    Read more and see what it looked like here.

    A short documentary film was made about the project, and a catalogue of writings was published. A portfolio of prints is available from artist Anna Schuleit. Send inquiries to: schuleit.assistant@gmail.com.