Near the end of a day’s shooting yesterday I asked Peg how many suitcases she thought we had photographed. She went to her computer and checked the database. We were up to 248 (out of 420) with two left to do before we shut down for the day. So we are well past the halfway point, and I was really cheered that we have made it so far. I shot the first case in March of 2011 and haven’t really been paying attention to the numbers, so it was a very pleasant surprise to see our progress.
John’s briefcase is particularly interesting, with a varied collection of items. All of the onionskin papers in the background are English language word and sentence exercises. It is possible he worked at General Electric for a time as he saved the pension and insurance plan brochures. And he was clearly a fan of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Dwight Eisenhower, Mickey Rooney as well as cheesecake shots of women. The reporter’s notebook is especially interesting as it is full of a stream of conscious like composition in his beautiful handwriting.
Thanks for all the support and interest in the project. Cheers, Jon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.