Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase #23

Posted in Jon Crispin, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 13/08/2013

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.

The Changing Face of What is Normal

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 15/01/2013

For much of last week Stephanie Bailey from the Exploratorium in San Francisco has been at the museum picking out objects for the exhibit that will be also featuring my suitcase photographs.  I went out to Rotterdam on Saturday to meet her and help out a bit.  Karen Miller and Craig Williams were there as well.  Details are mostly in place, and while there isn’t much information available on the web as of yet, the title of the exhibit is “The Changing Face of What is Normal”.  In addition to my photos, there will be a number of Karen’s poems and around 15 of the suitcases themselves.  I have seen the design for the display and it is going to be amazing.  It will open on the 17th of April when the new Exploratorium itself opens in the Embarcadero on (I think) Pier 15.  I will be there for the opening which should be a huge event.  At some point in mid May I’ll come back out for some programming to do with the exhibit.  And we are hoping to set up an “artists talk” sometime in the Autumn.

Some of the cases that are traveling to the exhibit were new to me and it was nice to see more of the possessions of the patients.

Madeline was a French teacher before she came to Willard.  This is a very beautiful copy of an illustrated Petit Larousse.

Her little coffee pot is nice too. /  It is amazing to me that some of the personal possessions of Willard patients will be shipped all the way across the country to be seen by a huge number of people.  As I have tried to handle the objects with great care when photographing them, the Exploratorium is showing great sensitivity in the way they are preparing the exhibit.  I really think it is going to be amazing.  As I know more about the timing of things over the next few months, I will post updates.  This will be an incredible and rare opportunity to see the cases up close.  The exhibit will run for at least six months, and we are hoping to have it extended for a full year.

Willard Suitcase #16 and News

Posted in Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 08/06/2012

This is not a suitcase per se, but Henry L.’s possessions were in this cardboard box.  As I continue this project, I occasionally come across different ways the museum has preserved the items.  This box was not wrapped like the others, but was in an archival box of its own.

I was particularly moved by this box.

Sometimes I don’t know what to write about these remnants of someone’s life.

As usual, I have obscured his surname here.

The quality of the his artificial foot and leg was amazing.  I am not sure when it was made as there was no date of Henry’s admission on the tag attached to the shoe.

The parts on the brace above were machined beautifully.

Thanks to you all for following the project.  And now for some really great news.  I have signed a contract with the Exploratorium in San Francisco to have a large number of the suitcase photos in an exhibit to be called “The Changing Face of What is Normal”.  One third of the exhibit will deal with mental health issues and my work will be a part of that component.  I am so excited and proud to be involved in this.  There will be a formal opening on 19 April, 2013 in their new space at Pier 15 in the Embarcadero and it looks like I will be doing an artist’s talk a few days after that.  My friend, the poet Karen Miller will also be involved.  She has been working with many of the same cases and her poems are amazing and evocative.  So I will look forward to seeing some of you next April in San Francisco.  Again thanks for all the feedback and support.

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