Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Anna H / Talk in Albany

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 03/04/2014

After a bit of a break, we were back to shooting more of the suitcases yesterday.  It was a productive day, and after the intensity of the Kickstarter appeal, it was nice to be back to doing what is the most important part of the project.

Anna’s case was in nice condition and the wicker pattern was lovely.

For those of you in the Albany area, I would love to see you at a presentation I will be giving at The University at Albany next Thursday the 10th.  I will be talking about the suitcases and some of my other work to Katherine Van Acker’s class on documentary studies.  Here are the details:  Uptown Campus, Science Library Room SL G02, 5.45 pm.  On our way back from Rotterdam yesterday, Peg drove me around the campus so I could get my bearings, and the first thing I noticed is that parking could be very difficult.  There is a very small visitors lot (link to campus map), so if you plan on attending I would encourage you to get there early.

Willard Suitcases / Over The Top

Posted in Architecture, Asylums, Dance, Hadley Hall, History, Landscape, Willard Asylum by joncrispin on 04/03/2014

Well, it seems we made it.  Late this afternoon we went over the $20,000 goal, with 324 backers.  There is still just under 24 hours to go and I am hoping a few more folks will come in to be a part of the community.

I couldn’t find a date on this scan of a bird’s-eye  view of Willard, but I am guessing late 19th Century.  The main building in the foreground is Chapin House, which sadly, is now gone.

And this photograph is from a Hallowe’en party in Hadley Hall (also where movies were shown).  I assume it was taken sometime in the 1950′s.  The band almost certainly are not patients, but the dancers and the folks sitting around the dance floor would mostly be.  This room still exists, in fact it is where Karen Miller and I spoke at the Romulus Historical Society event this past summer.

Every time I write up a post here, or update the Kickstarter page, I find myself wanting to over-use the word  “amazing”.  This whole project is that way for me.  Amazing that I have access to the cases, amazing that the cases even exist,  the amazing lives that are revealed by the contents of the cases, the amazing people that are working with me (thanks Peg, and everyone at the museum), and  the amazing people that are supporting this work through Kickstarter and in so many other ways.  There, I think I got it out of my system.  But, you know, it is really something to be a part of all this.   Cheers everyone, and thanks.  I am back shooting the suitcases tomorrow, and hope to have an update in the evening when I get back.

Willard Suitcases / Ethel S

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 02/03/2014

Ethel  S came to Willard with some beautiful quilts, which I have reason to believe she had made herself.

She also had some interesting photographs, and her Bible was a very nice edition.

And for some reason she arrived with a complete set of cutlery.

I especially liked this spoon, which was most likely hers as a child.

I often find myself wondering what impact her faith had in how she coped with life at the asylum.

As you can see, Ethel was admitted on 3 July, 1930.

Three days to go on the Kickstarter appeal.  Thank you all for your support.  I have every confidence we will make it.  I especially want to thank those of you who have increased your pledges.  I am a bit overwhelmed by all this.  You all must know that this is not so much about me and my life as a photographer, but about the  people who lived at Willard, those who took care of them, and all of you who are a part of the project.  Have a great week everybody.

Willard Cemetery / Thanks

Posted in History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 28/02/2014

Last February, Craig Williams and I were at Willard shooting the attic where the suitcases were “rediscovered. (Here’s a link to an earlier post)  There aren’t many of these upright metal markers left.

After we were done, we walked across the road to the cemetery.  It is always very moving to see the field where many of the Willard patients are buried in numbered graves.  And interesting to note that starting in the late 1930s, and ending just before he died 1968, a patient named Lawrence M  was the primary gravedigger.  Amazing.

I have posted before about the cemetery and the people who are working diligently to honor the dead by attaching names to the numbers.  Click here and here to read those previous posts.

Thanks for all the tremendous response to my “appeal” post the other night. We are at $14,000 on the Kickstarter appeal, and I am feeling very positive.

Oysters / Tilghman Packing Company

Posted in ephemera, History, Landscape, Nature, Weather by joncrispin on 21/02/2014

I had fun today photographing models of boats at the Tilghman Waterman’s Museum, as well as a great collection of oyster cans that Mark  Sadler brought in.  I really liked the typeface on this can, and the utensil on top was designed to open the can and then spoon out the oysters.

It rained very hard in the afternoon (tornado warnings for a bit) and then it cleared.  Around sunset, more clouds came in and the light was beautiful.  This shot was taken just off Bar Neck Road.  When the tide is high and the wind is coming from the south, the road is often underwater.  It has been a very wet winter on the island. / Ham and oyster dinner at the church tomorrow night and then into DC to see Peter.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret S.

Posted in History, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 12/02/2014

We had a very productive day shooting the cases yesterday.  We made it through another box, and it continues to feel like we are making real progress.  For the second week in a row, I was knocked out by a case when I opened it up.  This one had the classic type of latch that makes such a familiar sound when you slide the buttons to release the locks.  And I really liked the design and pleasant shade of grey.

Whoa, what a case!

Margaret S came to Willard on 6 June, 1967 and went to Ward 2 in the Hatch Building.

I have just cleared the $8,000 mark on the Kickstarter appeal, and I am very grateful for the support. We still have a long way to go before we reach our goal so I would really appreciate anything that could be done to spread the word.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Alice M.

Posted in History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/02/2014

When I am working with the suitcases, my biggest reaction comes when I open a case for the first time.  I just never know what to expect.

I have always like these wicker-like suitcases and this one is particularly interesting.

I just didn’t expect to see such an amazing lining when I opened Alice’s case.  It took my breath away.

 She was admitted to Willard on 6th October, 1941.

The second Kickstarter appeal has been up for less than 48 hours, and I am really excited.  Thanks for all the support.

Willard Suitcase / Benjamin M.

Posted in History by joncrispin on 28/01/2014

I often talk about the unique nature of the suitcase collection, and at times refer to the truly incredible job the New York State Museum did in preserving the cases and their contents.

The above photo is a great example of the museum’s work.  The only items in Benjamin’s case were the original label, a toothpick, and a tiny scrap of paper.  When we opened this case, the label was in one archival bag, and the toothpick and paper scrap were in another.  This may be something only museum curators and conservators can truly appreciate, but we are all beneficiaries of the care and concern shown to these materials.

I also often mention the major contribution Peggy Ross makes to this project, but today she really did something huge.  Over the last few months she has been working on a database of everything we have shot and what is left to do.  She made this list while I was shooting today, and just seeing it made me feel that not only have we made real progress, but now being able to complete a documentation of the entire collection seems within reach.  We now know exactly what remains to be shot and, that makes me feel really good.

It was great to see my friend Connie Houde who was working at the storage facility today.  She is on staff at the museum and is also a really interesting photographer.  She’s been working on updating her website and you should check it out here.

Thanks for following.  Cheers, Jon

National Museum of Natural History / DC

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Art, Buildings, History, Nature, People, Science by joncrispin on 24/01/2014

Peter and I had a great visit to the Museum of Natural History this afternoon.  I wanted to show him the Hope Diamond and some of the other gems.

The big diamond was ok, but we were drawn more to the emeralds and rubies.  This necklace was pretty cool.

These two pieces of chalcedony (quartz) were so cool; especially the green one.  Amazing that this stuff appears in nature only to be found, polished, and put on display.

Cool elephant in the main foyer.

Not being much in the way of scientists, we didn’t understand a lot of what was going on in the genome exhibit.

When we told Cris we were going to the Natural History Museum, she said  “Ooooh, dioramas!”

The guy here looks like he is hailing a cab in New York City.  I have actually seen guys who look pretty much like him doing just that.  When I was taking this photograph, a dad beside me was photographing his two kids and one of them said, “Daddy, I want to be a caveman.”

We kept coming back to the elephant.

We had an early dinner reservation at Mon Ami Gabi to celebrate Peter’s birthday.  It was great.  The escalator at the Bethesda station is enormous.

Back home tomorrow.

Tilghman’s Island

Posted in ephemera, History, Water by joncrispin on 22/01/2014

I am back on Tilghman’s Island (some call it Tilghman Island; it’s kind of confusing as the town is Tilghman, MD but most of the older watermen call it Tilghman’s).  I set up my lights and background and Willie Roe came by with his collection of items that he dredged up during his clamming days on Chesapeake Bay.

He has a huge assortment of 19th century clay pipes.

I especially like this one with Etoile etched into it and the lovely little star above the word.

Many of the pipes had the words HOME RULE stamped upon the bowl.  Here is what I found when I looked it up on the internet.  So amazing what you can learn about the past.

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