Spring City >> State Senator Andy Dinniman’s office will host a traveling exhibit on the story of Pennhurst State School and Hospital on the evening of Friday, Oct. 6.
The exhibit, organized by the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, tells the story of Pennhurst State School and Hospital, which opened in 1906 and houses those with mental and physical disabilities before closing in 1987 by federal court order.
The exhibit, which tells the story of Pennhurst in a three-part series detailing life at Pennhurst, the fall of Pennhurst, and the legacy of Pennhurst, will be set up outside Dinniman’s West Chester District Office, located at One North Church Street during West Chester’s First Friday event on October 6.
“What happened at Pennhurst was very real and impacted the lives of thousands of people,” Dinniman said. “It is important that we understand and fully grasp the horrors and tragedies that occurred there as we, as a people, continue to strive to treat every person with dignity and humanity and ensure that those with disabilities get access to proper care, treatment, and medical services and education services.
“In addition, Pennhurst can also be viewed as a turning point in the disability rights movement as its landmark legal victory resulted in a profound shift in the public conscience and the beginning of vast improvements in the treatment of those with disabilities that reverberated across the nation and the globe,” Dinniman added.
This exhibit includes a free-standing interactive kiosk with historic recordings, a blueprint of a Pennhurst ward, and a look ahead to the future development of the onsite Pennhurst Interpretive Center and Museum. In addition, James W. Conroy, Ph.D., a disability rights advocate, author, historian and co-founder of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, will be on hand to answer any questions about Pennhurst and discuss plans to create a museum there.
Located in Spring City, Pennhurst was originally opened as “The Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic” in 1908 but was soon under pressure to admit immigrants, orphans, and criminals.
After nearly a century of severe overcrowding, neglect, abuse, and the deteriorating of services, Pennhurst was finally closed by a court order after conditions there were brought to light by journalists and a class action lawsuit. The 1,400-acre site was abandoned with many of its buildings left as is.
The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance is currently working to preserve Pennhurst’s history as a landmark in the disability rights movement and develop a National Disability Museum and Community of Conscience at Pennhurst to engage ordinary citizens in an ongoing national dialogue on social issues and build lasting cultures of human rights.
For more information visit www.preservepennhurst.org.