The Historical Society of Cheshire County presents a screening and discussion of the documentary film Lost in Laconia on Wednesday, May 16th at 7 p.m. at 246 Main Street in Keene. The discussion panel will include Gordon Dubois, one of the film’s writers and former employee of the Laconia State School, Keene State College professor Graham Warder who was interviewed in the film, and Alan Greene from MDS.

Lol PosterDuring a time when people who were branded and stigmatized as "feebleminded" and a danger to society were banished to a life of isolation and total segregation, thousands of children and adults were institutionalized in large state-operated institutions throughout the country. In the case of New Hampshire, that place was the Laconia State School.

This landmark film traces the history of Laconia State School from its beginnings in the early 1900s as the New Hampshire School for the Feebleminded until it closed in 1991. Using archival footage and current interviews with former residents of the institution, families of former residents, and people who worked at the institution, along with an extensive collection of photos, newspaper articles, and state documents, this documentary examines the social values and cultural ideals of the twentieth century, relative to individuals and families who were labeled "feebleminded," deficient, or disabled in New Hampshire.

The showing is sponsored by the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene State College History Department & Office of Disabilities Services, and Monadnock Developmental Services (MDS). The film will be shown at the Historical Society at 246 Main Street in Keene at 7 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Alan Greene, MDS Executive Director, comments: “It’s hard to imagine that only 30 years ago an institution like Laconia State School existed. There are people living in our area, people you and I see on a regular basis, who spent some part of their lives there. Their stories are now being told, thanks in part to this film. Their lives are much improved because they’ve come back to live in their communities."
Greene continues: “We’ve come a long way from that era…but there’s still much to be done, on a daily basis, to be sure people with developmental disabilities are included in the communities in which they live.”

The screening is free and open to the public.