The Living Museum

Last summer, a friend and I went to visit the Living Museum, a decrepit building used as permanent art studios for current and former residents of Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens.  Anyone can go visit, but you have to call for an appointment beforehand, so the doctor knows you’re coming, but when we got there, the doctor––who had a German name––seemed very blase about our presence.  I wondered if I weren’t in my own personal version of Don’t Look in the Basement.  There were a few vacant-eyed smokers sitting in an entryway and a cat slinking about; big fans moved the sweltering air around the room in whorls.  Most of the art was weird and mediocre––outsider art, in my opinion, is so much more often miss than hit––but we found a very unexpected way to amuse ourselves: upstairs were a few empty studios and a number of file cabinets full of medical records and patient journals.  Naturally we flipped through some, and each took a patient log home with us.  Mine is the “work order log” of a James M. (patient confidentiality, people) who used this notebook from late May to early June of 1991.  His handwriting is decent but not frighteningly neat like a serial killer’s, which is a good sign.  On May 23, 1991, his notes from the “community” meeting were as follows:

(1) 9:20 Everybody sleeping.  Wake up guys!
(2) M. wants to be transferred to another ward because he can’t even have beer on the MICA ward.

(3) L. wants to be transferred to a coed ward for sex.

(4) B: explains purpose of MICA.

(5) Discussion of coed vs. male wards.

(6) A. wants to go to a “nice ward” in building 73.

(7) Discussion of sociopathy

(8) A. about d/c plans, about relapse.

From a quick flip-through, it appears that the men had a number of discussions about sociopathy those three weeks.

Below, one of the funnier, if not finer, pieces of art at the Museum.



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