Why Preserve Pennhurst?


A lone wheelchair in Union Hall
photo: Wayne L. Benner

Memory is the critical language and terrain of human rights. Through preserving past evidence of neglect, we make it real, we make it present, and we make it public. The place that bears the mark of the painful past becomes a powerful catalyst for awareness, action, relevance, inspiration, and investment in multiple senses. A National Disability Museum and Community of Conscience at Pennhurst will engage ordinary citizens in an ongoing national dialogue on social issues to build lasting cultures of human rights. Unlike the typical museum, it will not be place of passive learning but a place of active citizen engagement.Its mission will be one of truth seeking, of building a culture of "never again," of reconciliation, and of outreach though opportunities for public involvement, curriculum development and the like. This dialogue must be both about the meaning of the past and the shape of the future— with the full temporal spectrum of past, present, and future palpable in the Pennhurst visitor experience. What happened at Pennhurst and how did caring families and employees finally rise up to end it? How did that change create reform across the globe? What does it mean to be classed as "the other" and how and where is it still happening today? No other museum attacks these questions as they relate to disabilities head on---a dangerous absence of dialogue where indifference.

At some point many of us will become disabled in some manner, whether from injury or old age. But the events played out at Pennhurst affect all of us in ways that are even more profound. The struggle for acceptance, understanding, and, ultimately, freedom, is central to what it means to be an American. Moreover, it is the dream of oppressed people the world over. Here, at Pennhurst, cradled in a Commonwealth founded on ideals of tolerance and second chances, we have a complex but positive and inspiring story to tell. We hope you will join us to seize this opportunity to create a site of hope, a resource for all people somehow treated as "the other"—a place where they will be recognized and accepted without condition. This place of pain can become place of healing, reconciliation, and insight. It will be a center of national conscience with a message that knows no political, racial, or socio-economic bounds.

Please support our cause by donating now.

Read more About Pennhurst on our About Pennhurst State School page...

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mary11/10/2018
Pennhurst needs to have a memorial or a museum. This haunted attraction is so sickening and disrespectful. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Timothy Trotter10/12/2018
I am outraged and disgusted that pennhurst is still now nothing more than a haunted attraction for people to get thrills what those kids went through there is horrifying beyond comprehension! they weren't just abused and neglected they were often experimented on! SICK Basterds!
patrick frawley01/08/2018
I agree Susan it should be museum not some fun house for some stupid high school kids go some amusement as hunted house in live new jersey we also have places like Pennhurst we have once had Greystone now gone for ever we should have National Mental museum for things like never happen a again
Kaylin12/22/2017
Wow. I am not sure how much I understand about Pennhurst. Please... Quit letting kids use it as Halloween parties., This is a sacred memory of our past. Respect the forgotten. PTSD, Mental disorders, maladies, will refuse to be forgotten. It is more than a haunted house. Leave Pennhurst alone.
Tracey09/13/2017
I find it sick that these buildings are left the way they were the day it closed. Personal possessions, cribs etc. A disgrace. And the fact people visit there as entertainment is vile. Bless it. Tear it down. Then use the vass grounds as a beautiful.park with a memorial.
Sabrina 09/03/2017
As an archaeologist, historic and cultural preservation is of the utmost importance. Like much of our American history, Pennhurst has a dark past. Unlike the recent controversy over the Confederate statues there is true potential. Reading your mission statement, I agree with the proposed future plan
Sharon A03/31/2017
PLEASE TELL ME THAT THE FOLLOWING IS NOT TRUE! I have heard from more than one source that Pennhurst is now the site of Halloween parties where people come to enter and to tour the buildings and to encounter haunts! To my mind, Pennhurst is the Pennsylvania equivalent of the Holocaust!
John01/30/2017
Tear the whole complex down to the ground and leave it as park land. These buildings are so far gone and so full of asbestos it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. That would be a total waste of time and money better used elsewhere.
Melissa Lastname12/28/2016
Adv medicine/training has helped these people escape big institutions that were not financially/staff sustainable. You say reopen them to stop crime/shootings crime is down since the 90s when these places closed! You just don't want to see them out in the world, awful! Glad my cousin is safe @home!
Cassie10/18/2016
This place contains powerful evil and good spirits that need to be left alone! They are being disturbed and should NOT be exploited. I have proof! Please stop people from coming here! They been through enough!
Susan10/03/2016
I would happily pay to visit Pennhurst as a walk through museum but never pay as an amusement for Halloween. It's just so disrespectful to the patients who suffered there.
TK Gillette06/16/2016
Pennhurst has turned into a fun time for some of these so called people that are running ghost hunts and para cons. My daughter got threatened with a gun up there a few weeks ago by someone who runs these Para cons
Erin06/10/2015
It seems like most of the commenters are not even reading the deion closely. Preservation of Pennhurst does not mean supporting or condoning what the hospital did in its day. It's to REMEMBER the people who lived there as well as the people who worked there.
Sheree10/04/2014
I worked with people who'd lived in Pennhurst-including Nick Romeo. These PEOPLE loved, laughed FELT-like we do. Yes, many weren't easy to love, but that's true for all people. We've come so far need to continue. A museum/place to educate sounds great. NOTHING for Halloween. Show respect.
Anna M Bean08/11/2014
I agree that Pennhurst needs to be PRESERVED, NOT turned into a touristy type of trap haunted house,etc. A lot of suffering went on there, for both Staff patients - I urge CAUTION if it's fixed up. remodeled

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