Jon Crispin's Notebook

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.

Appeal

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 26/02/2014

The Kickstarter campaign ends next Wednesday.  I want to thank all of you who have supported the project so far.

It is now time for me to put out a direct appeal to those of you who have thought about backing the project but have been waiting to decide if it was something you would care to do.  I could really use your help.

The way Kickstarter works is that I set a goal, and if that goal is not reached, none of the funds will come through.  I felt strongly that I did not want to undervalue the project, and that if I achieved my goal, I would be able to finish shooting all the cases.  The money raised helps me cover my costs of travel, pays me for my time, and enables me to pay Peggy Ross for her invaluable help.  The funds also allow me to make and distribute prints to show to potential venues for exhibits, and begin to reach out to organizations that might want me to talk about the suitcases to a wider audience.  I can’t begin to tell you how weird it feels to me to directly ask for financial support, but I am convinced that this is the most important project I have worked on in my life as a photographer, and I think Kickstarter is a great venue for people to become involved in the creation of something so compelling.  So, here’s the link. And thanks so much.

William H was admitted to Willard on 28 June, 1926.

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 Suitcases Kickstarter II is Launched

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

I have just launched the second Kickstarter appeal to fund my work on the suitcases and  I am very excited.  Thanks to everyone who helped me put this together, and to all of you who are such strong supporters.  Here is the link.  Cheers, Jon

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Mary E. B.

Posted in Asylums, History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 17/01/2014

We had a very productive day shooting in Rotterdam yesterday.  Again, most of the cases were largely empty, but there was still some interesting things to notice.  You can see the outline of the handle in dust from when the suitcase was stored in the racks at Willard.  I like how the museum staff left it as they found it before wrapping it up for storage.

This was all that we found in the case.  The New York Central luggage tag is beautiful.

This is what was written on the reverse site.  When I showed it to Peggy, she got a chill.  We both often react that way when the real life of the person is shown to us through their possessions.  Mary had a suitcase, she travelled, and at one time, she lived at 417 W. Main Street in Waterloo, NY.

Ausbourne G. + Twitter and Tumblr

Posted in History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 11/01/2014

I have been uploading more cases to the willardsuitcases.com site.  This is a photograph from Ausbourne G’s possessions.  He brought a good collection of tools with him to Willard in a nice wooden box. / I am making good progress on getting all the cases online, and will continue to upload more as time allows.

I have set up a Twitter account for those of you who would like updates on a more regular basis.  Check it out at @willardsuitcase (no s).  And I have also set up a Tumblr site which I have linked to this wordpress site.  willardsuitcases.tumblr.com    This is the first post where I have linked to both, so let’s hope it all works.  Any feedback is appreciated.

Willard Suitcases / Agnes J

Posted in History, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 06/01/2014

Earlier today I uploaded Agnes J’s case to the willardsuitcases.com site.  (Go to “The Cases” and click the link on her name.)  She is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that her satchel contained a wealth of correspondence that revealed so much about her life.  Hers was the first case that I shot with so much personal information.

There is a line in the letter below that explains so much about her being sent to Willard.

“But don’t come back to the Y.W. and threaten to kill that girl again–that’s what put you where you are now.”  Chilling and so sad.

She started this letter to President Hover [sic] while she was a patient at Warren State Hospital which is very near to where I grew up.

So please check out her two cases on the suitcases site.  And I’d like to welcome all the new readers to this site.  Something was published somewhere on the net that linked to my project, and I have been getting lots of interesting emails from people in the past few days.  If you want to see all of my wordpress posts about the project, just click here, and welcome.

Willard Suitcase / Gordon K. + Cemetery News

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 27/12/2013

Gordon K was admitted to Willard in September of 1962.  The inner lining of his small grip was different than most we have seen.  More like flannel than anything else.

This morning Cris was reading the news on her computer and forwarded this story to me.  I couldn’t help but think about the Willard cemetery, and the work that Colleen Spellecy is doing  at the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project and that Lin Stuhler is doing at her Inmates of Willard site.  After watching the piece, I was curious about how the group was able to get names from the state.

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