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Bryn Athyn College Hosts Pennhurst Exhibit, Encouraging Awareness and Discussion of Disability Rights

The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance (PMPA) brings its traveling exhibit to Bryn Athyn College this fall.  The collection of informational posters made its way through previous host sites such as Penn State and the Capitol at Harrisburg, and will be displayed in Bryn Athyn College’s Doering Center from October 28–November 7, 2016.   Telling the story of a failed institution, this exhibit shows the good intentions of many of its staff members, and the horrifying experiences and incredible spirits of its residents.

The disability rights issues addressed in the exhibit will be studied specifically by Bryn Athyn College students from various majors including psychology, education, and nursing.  Dr. Erica Goldblatt Hyatt, department chair and assistant professor of psychology, is the main organizer bringing the exhibit onto campus.  She says, “Integrating this into our curriculum is important because it exposes our students to the lived experience of real people in the real world.”  She continues, “We try to prepare our students for meaningful and useful service to others, and so while it might not be pretty, they can’t close their eyes to this.  We are offering a safe environment in which to learn about and process this tough information.”

Pennhurst State School and Hospital was an infamous institution for the mentally and physically disabled that opened its doors in 1908 and was closed in 1986 following a major lawsuit and a number of investigations and exposés. PMPA seeks to preserve the Pennhurst buildings as a National Disability Museum and Community of Conscience that will “engage ordinary citizens in an ongoing national dialogue on social issues to build lasting cultures of human rights.”

The exhibit opening is at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 28 at Bryn Athyn College’s Doering Center.  The public is warmly encouraged to come to the event and learn about this important issue.  Opening the program will be Representative Tom Murt of the 152nd legislative district, who will introduce guest speakers Jean Searle and James W. Conroy, co-presidents of PMPA.  Guest speakers will begin at 7:30 p.m.  Light refreshments will be provided.