HCN News & Notes

Exhibition to Chronicle 100 Years of Austen Riggs Center

STOCKBRIDGE — The Austen Riggs Center announce a new exhibition, “The Hospital on Main Street: Human Dignity and Mental Health,” to open over Memorial Day weekend. The exhibition will be located in the newly renovated annex of the Old Corner House in Stockbridge, and chronicles the history of the center, from its founding by Dr. Austen Fox Riggs in 1919 to its current position as a leading psychiatric hospital and residential treatment center.

The official grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, for invited guests, is scheduled for Saturday, May 25 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Old Corner House, 48 Main St., Stockbridge, and will be hosted by Dr. Eric Plakun, medical director and CEO, and members of the Riggs and Stockbridge communities.

“For 100 years, our location on Main Street in Stockbridge has been crucial to the work we do with patients and in terms of our standing in the larger world of treatment for mental illness,” Plakun said. “Essential to our way of working with people with complex psychiatric problems is a focus on patients as people with competence and a voice worth hearing.”

The exhibition is structured to tell three key stories: the founding of the Austen Riggs Center and the larger historical context of mental healthcare in America; the development of a treatment model integrating principles of psychoanalysis and social learning in a therapeutic community; and the partnership between Riggs and the local community, and Riggs’ commitment to education, training, research, and outreach.

“The ‘Hospital on Main Street’ exhibition celebrates our centennial and tells the story of the evolution of mental healthcare in the U.S. and the development of the Riggs model of treatment that seeks to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness, and advocates for a biopsychosocial approach to understanding and treating patients,” said Jane Tillman, director of the Riggs Erikson Institute for Education and Research and project director for Riggs’ centennial exhibitions.

The permanent installation incorporates historic photographs, artifacts, and ephemera that span the 100-year history of Riggs, along with a video installation. The “Hospital on Main Street” exhibition will be free and open to the public, following the grand-opening event, on both Sunday, May 26, and Monday, May 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Throughout the summer and fall, the exhibition will be open Thursday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be staffed by Riggs-trained docents.