Smith thought it important to photograph the building for those reasons -- to be able to tell the story of the history of mental illness and the evolution of treatment.
"On one hand, the support and the building of these asylums in the 19th century represented recognition that mentally ill people needed medical-type treatment and needed treatment rather than being stuck away in a jail,'' he said. "But, because they had so little real knowledge about what mental illness was about, by today's standards, a lot of the treatment was considered ... barbaric.''
He found that to be difficult, because of the emptiness of the building. There were not a lot of indicators left behind as to what specifically went on there. Smith decided to focus on the mood of the asylum instead.
"I tried to capture the feel of the place strictly by the way the light filters in through the windows and looking down the halls, you see light coming through the doors,'' Smith said.
Smith also had in mind the importance of historic preservation when photographing the building. He was impressed by the condition it had been kept in, as well as its use for tours and a museum.
"He bought it with the idea that he wanted to preserve it and restore it. And I thought that was a really good thing, because buildings like this are constantly in danger, unless somebody makes a commitment to them,'' he said.
While the project is primarily visual, Smith did a fair amount of historical research to give context to his images and make a complex project more cohesive.
"This was more a matter of being able to actually compile a project where it had a number of layers,'' Smith said.
The exhibit will be on display at 108 North George Street in Charles Town. A reception will be held at the gallery from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 6.