File/Life: We Remember Stories of Pennhurst

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University



A Fierce Kind of Love, Suli Holum, March 2019, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, FringeArts, High Pressure Fire Service Festival. Photo by Johanna Austin, AustinArt Photography.


Here: Stories from the Selinsgrove Center and KenCrest Services, March 2016, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, City Hall, Philadelphia, PA. Photo by JJ Tiziou.


Armed with Our Voices: Story Wall, Wick Poetry Center, Kent State University. Photo by Each + Every.

A community-based storytelling project will interpret the history and ongoing impact of the institutionalization of people with disabilities. Members of the intellectual disability community and their families will work with artists, historians, and archivists to investigate the archives of the now-closed Pennhurst State School and Hospital, which once housed over 4,000 residents in overcrowded and inhumane conditions. Bringing their lived experiences of disability into dialogue with historical accounts, the community archivists will create new work that challenges and reinterprets the historical record. The project will culminate in the creation of an interactive, multimedia “story wall” installation that will connect archives, artifacts, and personal narratives. Designed in partnership with the Wick Poetry Center of Kent State University, the multi-sensory installation will premiere in Philadelphia and later travel to the Pennsylvania State Capital in Harrisburg.

The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.