The items in this exhibit are glimpses into the societal attitudes, institutional policies and practices, and reform movements of the past, which provide background understanding for the state of mental health care and the welfare of disabled individuals in the present day. While minorities and people with mental and physical disabilities still face systematic barriers within the healthcare system, the treatment of these individuals has improved dramatically over the last century. Locked Away: The Hidden Atrocities of Forced Institutionalization has sought to bring to light the wrongs of institutionalization practices and feature the reform movements which took a stand for the dignity of vulnerable people. By uplifting these narratives, we hope to bring awareness to the strides that have been taken to improve mental health and the treatment of disabled individuals, as well as the progress that is yet to be made.
For more materials about the personal voices and expression of disabled individuals in an era of stigmatization, please see the Newberry Library's collection on "Mendicant Ephemera," which highlights disabled individuals' fight for status and equal recognition within society.