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Chilling Photos from Oregon’s Abandoned Insane Asylum

David Maisel’s Library of Dust photo series depicts the eerie, but beautiful, stillness of Oregon’s State Hospital. Built in 1883 — and formerly the Oregon State Insane Asylum — the filming location of Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has a long and difficult past, but Maisel has captured its humanity in a fascinating way.

“On my first visit to the hospital, I am escorted to a decaying outbuilding, where a dusty room lined with simple pine shelves is lined three-deep with thousands of copper canisters. Prisoners from the local penitentiary are brought in to clean the adjacent hallway, crematorium, and autopsy room. A young male prisoner in a blue uniform, with his feet planted firmly outside the doorway, leans his upper body into the room, scans the cremated remains, and whispers in a low tone, ‘The library of dust.’ The title and thematic structure of the project result from this encounter,” Maisel writes on his blog.

Those canisters hold the cremated and unclaimed remains of the hospital’s prisoners through the 1970s. Much of the building remains in use today, but Maisel’s exploration of the hospital’s closed and crumbling corridors preserves the asylum’s past. Click through for a look at this chilling series of images.


David Maisel, Asylum 16, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, OR

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