Published DateGILMANTON — On Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m., the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, with support from the New Hampshire Humanities Council, will present the program, Laconia State School, Understanding Our Past to Create a Better Future for People with Disabilities. The event will be held at the Year-Round Library, opposite the Gilmanton school..
Opened in 1903 and closed in 1991, the Laconia State School, located on Parade Road in Laconia, was the state's only residential institution for children and adults labeled "feebleminded." For many of these people their entire lives were spent isolated from their families, friends and their communities. New Hampshire was representative of many states that institutionalized people with disabilities because it was felt they were better off living in large state run institutions, segregated from the larger society.
Using an extensive collection of slides, artifacts and video taped oral histories, the program will trace the evolution and growth of this institution. The presentation will provide insight into the principal features of society's values and changes in those values during the twentieth century. It will connect Laconia State School's institutional history with larger social ideals and principles, leading to national trends and social policy. Particular attention will be paid to the eugenics period and the social inclusion movement, which led to the eventual closing of the institution.
The presenter, Gordon DuBois, worked at the Laconia State School from 1979-1991. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern Maine, University of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire Community Colleges. He has lectured extensively on this topic throughout New Hampshire and in several other states. DuBois was the primary archivist for the Laconia State School History Project. He has also collected a number of taped oral histories of people who lived and worked at the institution.