Craig Williams sent me a link to an article that ran in the Trumansburg, NY weekly paper, and I wanted to pass it along. It is a very well thought out editorial on the potential closing of two Southern Tier psych centers (Willard is also mentioned). Here is the link. I thought of the above photo when the writer spoke about how the alternative to folks getting help in psych centers is to house them in prisons. The above photo is from a project I did in the 1980s photographing early 20th Century New York State prisons. This particular shot was taken in the Elmira Correctional Facility which would undoubtedly end up hosting some of the very people who would not be able to get treatment in the psych centers that are meant to close. I accept that it is all very complicated, but some logical planning on the State’s part should be encouraged.
On a somewhat connected note, yesterday I photographed a very moving interfaith service at the South Church in Springfield called “Creating a Peace-Full City”. There has been an awful spate of gun-related violence in Springfield this year, and many have come together to see if something positive could be done about it. I had never been in this church before and it is stunning.
It has been quite a while since I have posted a suitcases update. There is a lot going on, and I finally have a bit of a breather. I have been shooting at least one day a week in Rotterdam, and some weeks I have managed two full days.
On Tuesday, Peter Carroll came out from Ithaca and we shot video for the upcoming Kickstarter 2 appeal. It will be several weeks before it is even close to be up and running (pending Kickstarter approval), but I have been thinking a great deal about how to go about the whole thing.
I have a natural aversion to asking for financial support for my independent projects, and it is a bit of a struggle for me to think about how to begin this process all over again. After the shoot, I was talking to my son Peter, and he had some great words of encouragement, especially the idea that I would never be asking for a second round of support if the first one wasn’t so successful in getting folks interested in the suitcases.
And what really keeps me going is that in doing this work, I have helped to create and incredible community of people who are invested in the completion of the project.
Peg Ross and I have been so productive in the last two months. We have a system set up that allows us to be super efficient. In one two day period alone we managed to shoot almost 30 cases. Most of these were partially to completely empty, but I have come to feel that it is just as important to document these suitcase as the ones that are full.
These license plates are a good example. Along with the paper tag, these were the only objects in Robert Y’s case. Amazing.
Stuert B’s case was filled with these bathroom products. This is the second container of Dr. Lyon’s Tooth Powder we have come across.
I love the Mennen logo on the top of the talcum container. Beautiful.
I have also been able to upload a few more suitcases to “The Cases” section of willardsuitcases.com. Check it out if you get the chance and please stay in touch. It means so much to me to get feedback.
The New York State Museum did an amazing job conserving and cataloguing the suitcase collection. Three staffers did most of the work. Sarah Jastremsky, Christine Allen, and Kara Chambers worked for months on the project, and they each had their own style of wrapping. I have never been able to tell who did which case, but they all did an amazing job. This particular case represents one of those distinctive styles. / Peg and I always try very hard to return the suitcases to their original condition once we are done shooting.
And it is she who does most the work in this regard. Here is the result of rewrapping Leo R’s case; very close to the original and equally effective. She looks very proud and happy in this picture, as well she should. / From time to time I mention Peg in these posts and it bears saying again that I would have a very hard time doing this work without her help. She deserves a lot of the credit for what you see here and on willardsuitcases.com and I am so grateful that she is a partner on the project.
Leo’s case was one of many leather grips that we have photographed. There wasn’t much in it, but what was there was great. You can see by the label that he was admitted on 25 June, 1954.
I have never seen a Vaseline tube in this color. I wish they would have kept using it, as it is a shade of green that knocks me out.
I have been adding more cases to the suitcases site. Eleanor G’s just went up, which one of the larger collections of photographs. I’ll have more posted by the end of the week, just click on “The Cases” at the top of the page. Thanks for checking it out.
I have started shooting two days a week at the museum in an attempt to get through all 400 cases. I have a long way to go. Last week Peg was not able to help out and I was only able to get through 4 empty cases in a day.. She was with me this Wednesday and Thursday and we really wailed. We were able to get through several empty cases and then started on Charles F’s collection; 2 small cases and a huge trunk with 4 archival boxes filled with his possessions. He was such an interesting fellow and had saved very interesting items. He was born in Russia in 1861, became a US citizen in 1896 and was admitted to Willard in 1946. He died there and is buried in Ithaca.
I have slowly been uploading more cases to the gallery on willardsuitcases.com. Check it out by clicking on “The Cases” in the tabs section at the top of the page.
I will be talking about the Willard Suitcases project at the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, NY on Thursday, 24th October. Craig Williams will also be there and it should be a fun evening. The event will take place in the Borg Warner room at 6.00 PM and is, of course, open to the public. It would be a good chance to meet those of you who live in central New York and can attend.
I like this photograph from John C’s case as it shows how carefully the staff at the New York State museum worked to preserve these delicate objects. I have just uploaded his suitcase to the willardsuitcases.com site, so you can now see what else John had with him at Willard.
Well, this took a while. I was feeling a bit low about the fact that it took me so long to have the suitcases site up and running. Steve Fox, who designed it and put it together was very sympathetic when I expressed this to him. He mentioned a great Chinese proverb that I had never heard. ”The best time to plant a tree is 100 years ago. The second best time is right now”. So I guess it isn’t too late. He did such a beautiful job and I am so pleased with the results. So, just a few notes. It is going to take quite a while for me to upload all the cases, but once I have done so, each one will be available to see. As of this moment, there are only eight, but bear with me as I work on the images and upload them to the server. Photos will eventually be for sale for anyone interested. I will be offering two sizes and will print them myself. So check it out by clicking here.
Here is a case I shot on Tuesday.
It belonged to Delmar H.
It is one of my favorite suitcases.
It is very heavy and quite battered.
I found myself wishing that more of this label was intact. It is from a hotel in Bologna, Italy.
There were a few really nice features. The handle was very sturdy and the hasps were very well made.
None of Delmar’s possessions were inside; just a few scraps of paper and a piece of twine, along with a small portion of the original label from when she arrived at Willard.
I had been unable to shoot the suitcases for a bit, and it felt so great to be back.
And one more piece of news that totally blows me away. I got an email from Hunter Oatman-Stanford who wrote one of the best (and earliest) articles on the project for Collector’s Weekly. Get this…..his story has garnered over 1 million unique page views! Unreal. I’ll thank him again for blowing this whole thing wide open, as most of the interest the project has received is due to him.
Welcome to all of you who came here through the Boing Boing article (slight spelling error on my surname). I usually know that an article was published somewhere on the web when I start to get lots of new people subscribing to this site. I took me a few minutes to track down the source, but as always, I am grateful for the exposure.
Not all of the cases contain much in the way of objects, and this one felt quite empty when I set it on the background.
This was the first tartan case I have come across and it surprised me with its brightness.
There was only the tiniest scrap of paper inside, but for some reason it was very evocative. You can just make it out on the front flap of the case.
I am always excited when a suitcase reveals a date. And why this charred bit from the Elmira Star-Gazette is all that is left of Viola G.’s time at Willard is anyone’s guess.
I also want to mention an interesting podcast on Port Magazine’s site. Barney Rowntree is a radio producer based in the UK and a few months ago, Karen Miller and I went into a studio in Boston to have a chat with him about the project. Here is the link to the piece that he produced (another spelling error on my name, but they are working on it). It is just under 15 minutes and worth a listen.
Again, a hearty welcome to all you folks who are new to the project. Thanks for your interest.
This appears to be the oldest case in the collection.
Josephine S. was 25 years old when she was admitted to Willard in 1898.
There weren’t a whole lot of her possessions in this case, but what was there was pretty amazing.
A few photographs, 3 books, and not much more.
The hairbrush is quite lovely as is the small piece of fabric with her name and some numbers written on it (by I presume the staff at Willard). The plate is hand painted.
What was most interesting and touching was this wedding invitation postmarked “1906″. Since she was from Canandaigua, it is possible that the Lapham family thought she could attend.
I was also interested in this copy of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I looked and it is a first edition (at least of this printing). Dust jacket and all.
Josephine died at Willard in 1973 at the age of 100.
I will be back shooting tomorrow and will post something later in the week. Thanks for following.
My good friend Connie Frisbee Houde (who works with clothing and fabrics at the New York State Museum and is also a photographer) sent me some information about the shawl that was in yesterday’s post. The technique is called assuit. Very interesting, so click the link to read more. She also mentioned that the garment with the purple lining is more likely a coat than a bathrobe. She said sometimes these are referred to as opera cloaks.
I was back at the museum shooting suitcases yesterday. Irma’s possessions were in several storage boxes and we weren’t able to finish up last week. This time I concentrated on some of her travel memorabilia and a few pieces of fabric.
As I had mentioned in last week’s post, she seems to have travelled extensively before coming to Willard. One of the boxes contained many items from Scandinavia including this beautiful collection of photographs from Norway.
She was quite a collector.
This interesting card was addressed to her when she was in New York City and I think it might have been from her sister. Below is the reverse side.
And it appears that she spent time taking the cure at Mont-Dore.
This brochure is very cool.
For those of you fortunate enough to read French, you can get an idea about the treatments available. I am totally diggin’ les “Costumes du Mont-Dore”.
Here is a small section of the map that opened up in the center of the brochure.
And here she is in all her beauty. Heart-breaking. Note the sheet music in the photo on the left.
There was a large collection of family snapshots.
And I believe that the gentleman on the bottom left is her brother or brother in law.
This is a detail of a bathrobe that was obviously hand sewn.
Above are two beautiful scarves with this small clutch purse.
And a nice detail of the beads on the clutch.
Yesterday I also shot a case of a woman named Josephine who came to Willard at the age of 25 in 1898 and died at the institution in 1973. Her case is the oldest in the collection and I hope to post some shots next week. Thanks for following, and thanks so much to the New York State Museum for allowing me access to this amazing collection.