I am often asked if I have a favorite suitcase or photo from the project. I don’t, really. But one recurring theme is the idea of knots. It started initially with the string that the museum used to secure the archival paper that helps to preserve each case. But soon I started to see them in the possessions of the patients, especially the clothing. Peg and I worked on more of Margaret D’s things yesterday, and this shot of a beautiful camisole shows a lovely little knot tied near one of the straps.
Here is an example from the outside of Eleanor G’s case.
I have been uploading more case to the willardsuitcases.com site. Check it out if you haven’t been there lately.
Peter and I were hoping for some cherry blossom action today, but it was about a week too early. It was a beautiful day for a stroll, and the crowds were out. As we were starting to walk around the Tidal Basin I asked him if he knew anything about Fanne Fox and Wilbur Mills and the famous incident that happened in 1974. I was hoping for a “History Happened Here” plaque, but no such luck so we sat on a bench overlooking the water and read about it on my phone. What a great story, and the amazing thing is that Mills won his next reelection campaign in spite of it all.
As I mentioned, the blossoms were just about ready to pop.
The only ones that were out were on this tree, and there was a queue to get the shot.
When I was a kid, I used to love playing around with cherry tree sap. I haven’t thought about doing that for ages.
We were thrilled to stumble across the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument. It is really powerful, with lots of King quotes sprinkled about.
We kept on walking around the tidal basin and soon came to the FDR Memorial, which we had also never seen. I love this sign for the restrooms. Kind of surprising that they didn’t include an ideogram of someone in a wheelchair.
I am often asked about the annual tour of the Willard grounds, and I now have some tentative information about this year’s event. It is a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Children’s Center, which is on the grounds of the old asylum. Here is a link to their Facebook page, where they will post details. It is tentatively set for the 16th of May. If you plan to attend, get there early as it is usually very crowded.
Additionally, the Willard Cemetery Memorial project is holding an event that same day in honor of Lawrence Mocha. Here is a link to a Finger Lakes Times article that includes some details.
I hope to attend each event, and would be happy to see any of you who can make it. Thanks to Mark for the tip about the Lawrence Mocha event.
The above picture is one I took in May of 1984 on my first visit to photograph inside Chapin House on the Willard grounds.
I started shooting the Willard Suitcases project on 17 March 2011, which is exactly four years ago today. I had no idea what I was doing, but knowing that I had access to one of the most unique collections of institutional artifacts anywhere, I figured something had to come of it. Here is a link to a post I put up the next day.
Peg and I spent the day continuing to work our way through Margaret D’s possessions.
The list above seems to be a resumé of sorts. And you can see Margaret’s will on the lower right.
A huge thank you goes out to everyone that has helped me with this work, and to those who have appreciated my efforts. All best, Jon
We have been learning quite a bit about Margaret’s life before she came to Willard. She worked at Herman M. Biggs Memorial Hospital in Ithaca as a nurse, and at some point had some sort of surgery. There were a large number of get well cards in the boxes we worked on yesterday, many of which had lovely personal notes on the inside. It was clear that she was very well liked by her friends and co-workers.
As I have mentioned before, Margaret came to Willard with almost everything she had accumulated up to that point in her life. Yesterday we came across her 1939 and 1940 1040A forms and quite a few photographs. Inside of a photo envelope labeled “Easter Greetings” was a picture of the car that I mentioned in this post.
In the same envelope was a photograph of the hospital in Ithaca where she once worked. / Peggy Ross was especially helpful yesterday, and I wanted to thank her again for all her hard work on the project. Her organizational skills are only outweighed by her cheerful spirit, which when shooting in a darkish and chilly storage facility is very much welcomed.
There has been quite a bit of attention to the project lately and with many new folks coming to this site, I wanted to remind everyone that I am continually uploading earlier shoots to the willardsuitcases.com site. Check it out if you haven’t been there lately, and thanks for following.
Margaret D arrived at Willard with almost her entire household as well as her car. Which in this case was a Dodge Brothers Coupe that she bought new in 1934. Here is what Hemmings has to say about it. An amazing automobile.
This is the first page of the notebook where she kept track of trips that she took in it. I am quite familiar with the first legs of the journey, having grown up in Western Pennsylvania. Especially the Salamanca, NY to Bradford, PA leg. And my great friend and college roommate Gail grew up in Ridgeway, where I have spent quite a bit of time.
I am just blown away when I think about the stories contained in these suitcases. Thanks for following along with me.
I uploaded William G’s case to the willardsuitcases.com site today. There is a lot of history here. The Fort Randolph towels give a hint as to where his military service occurred. And he must have had some connection to the Boy Scouts.
You can check out more of what he chose to bring to Willard with him here. This is one of my favorite collections.
Late yesterday afternoon I made a French chicken in a pot. I haven’t made it in a while and it was terrific. In the evening as I was finishing washing up my mom’s well and tree platter, I turned it over and saw this inscription, which I had never noticed. It was a bit confusing at first, as I was pretty sure it was a wedding gift, but on that day (June 18, 1940) she became Vera Louise Crispin and forever gave up Vera Louise Krieghoff. (She was proud to have become Mrs. Robert L. Crispin; in fact when the ways of addressing women started to change in the early 70s and she would get mail addressed to MS Vera Crispin, she would write on the envelope “no one at this address by that name” and return it to the post office. She had a tremendous sense of humor and was in her own way quite subversive.)
I am guessing it could have been a wedding shower gift given to her sometime before the big day. Here is the mark on the back, but unfortunately the top is obscured and I can’t tell who made it. If any of you recognize it, I would very much like to know.
This photograph is from the last shoot of 2014. LaVerne’s case held an amazing collection of postcards from Europe and some very interesting personal photographs. / Due to scheduling issues, Peg and I and won’t be able to get back to the project until later this month, but we are on the home stretch with the suitcases. I would estimate that we have photographed at least 350 of the roughly 400 cases and it feels great. The next phase (along with continuing to edit and upload to the site) will be to start talking to publishers and galleries.
Some very good news about coverage of the work. In mid December I started to see an up tic in traffic on the web, and I have been receiving lots of interest and great feedback. Just this morning abcnews.com ran a selection of the images. It is featured quite high on their main page and here is the direct link. Thanks so much to Kate at ABC News for her interest.
And a very interesting site in Brazil just ran a long article on the project. The InstitutoMoreiraSalles (IMS) runs an online magazine called ZUM and they did a great job putting the piece together. Here is the link. If any of you read Portuguese, let me know how it sounds.
This ⇧ model (made out of corn kernels) is of the building in my previous post. It is displayed at the Heritage Center of Clark County. Incredible Richardsonian Romanesque architecture which houses one of the most interesting local museums that I have ever seen. Really, go check it out if you are ever in this part of Ohio.
So much of downtown Springfield is gone by way of the wrecking ball, which is really sad to me. But the Heritage Center has a fantastic recreation of downtown streets as the were decades ago. When I first came to Wittenberg, my friends and I used to stop in to Sons bar for a beer or two.
Off to the Wescott House now. I can’t wait to see it.