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.
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.
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.
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.
This past Monday I began documenting the Willard suitcases again after not having done so since last September. I had stopped shooting at that time to prepare for the Exploratorium exhibit. The New York State Museum has given me permission to continue the project and it is both exciting and daunting, as there are still over 300 cases to photograph.
Craig Williams thought that Irma M.’s cases would be a good place to start, and so after getting set up, Peg and I began shooting in the late morning. Irma had several cases, and most of her possessions were in museum boxes.
There wasn’t much in the brown suitcase, but I liked the design of the fabric liner.
She was initially placed in Ward 3, South West
This large trunk had a couple of nice labels on the outside.
I appears that this trunk was shipped to Willard in 1933.
Irma led a very interesting life and it is clear that she spent time in both Europe and North America.
We had the usual problem with deciding what to shoot, as one of the museum boxes was completely full of sheet music.
It appears from her papers that she taught both music and languages in New York City after she moved to the US from Europe.
It is interesting that the composer Jack Bauer signed this one with such a nice dedication.
In addition to all the sheet music, there was a large collection of books and diaries from her travels. This Panama Canal book is incredible.
As is this sweet little booklet honoring George Washington.
I appears to be written for children what with the large illustrations and the somewhat dodgy history of his time with Native Americans.
Some of the books were in pretty rough shape, as was the interior of the trunk.
This illustrated dictionary caught our attention.
Peggy is a fluent French speaker and I asked her what her favorite word was.
She responded immediately with “pépinière” and “pépiniériste”.
I especially liked this representation of flags with annotations for the colors.
We were not able to get through all of Irma’s things and I hope to finish her up next week. This was our last set-up of the day.
The umbrella handle is so delicate.
I was able to find a link to Dr Charles Flesh Food.
This small diary contained some interesting entries.
Whenever I see an address like this I can’t help but wonder who lives there now. And what about Mrs George Covert? What was her connection to Irma?
From her diary of 8 January, 1925.
If feels so good to get back to this project and I hope to have more updates soon. Cheers, Jon
I am really sorry that this is so last minute. I have been meaning to post this for a while now, but things have been very busy. I will be speaking at Willard tomorrow at 9 am and 1 pm. Here are the details.
features parts of an exhibit which is now at the San Francisco
Exploratorium with suitcases, photos by Jon Crispin, poetry by Karen
Miller,MD and testimonials by former employees of Willard Psychiatric
Center. An update of the Willard Cemetery, tours of the cemetery and the
Romulus Historical Society”s Museum will be available. The program will
be at 9am & repeated at 1pm. The charge will be $10. at the door. For
further information call 315-651-5702 or 607-869-9404.
I would be so happy to see anyone who can make it.
I just received word from the New York State Museum that I have permission to start shooting more suitcases. I’ll call them next week to set up a schedule. This is a huge relief to me and I would like to publicly thank them for allowing this to happen. / This photograph was taken on 22 May, 1984 on the very first day that I was allowed into Chapin House. It was a wild day. My dear friend Richard Pieper was with me and basically ran interference as I was assigned two security guards to follow me around. He would stop in the middle of doorways and turn around to ask a question thus holding them up so I could be left on my own a bit. I remember feeling that I might not have much more access than on this day, so I shot 35 mm black and white film with my Leica rangefinders (these two shots), 35mm slide film with my Nikons, and 120 color negative film with my Pentax 6×7. Almost everything great that I got out of this building came from this day. / I was so thrilled last evening to get an email from Michael Labate who was director of facilities planning for OMH at the time I was trying to access the buildings. He single-handedly got me access to Willard and I will be forever grateful. He had heard about the suitcase project and was so complimentary about my work.
These broom-like devices weighed a ton and were used by the patients as they walked the corridors. As it was explained to me, the wooden floors were in constant need of maintenance, and paraffin would be put on chamois cloths attached to the bottom of these polishers. I only ever shot this scene in black and white, but it is so very evocative to me.
Central stairway, Chapin House, Willard Asylum
There are a lot of great and interesting people working on New York State asylum issues. I have been following Lin Stuhler’s work on the Willard cemetery for a while, but only had the chance to meet her a few months ago. We keep in touch, and she just emailed me with a link to her recent blog post about the recent open house, and the bill she has been pushing in the state legislature to name the people buried at the graveyard. There is also a link to a really great video that was made by her local cable company. It is an interesting post and there is some nice video footage of some of the buildings and the cemetery. She has a real passion for this issue and should be commended for all the hard work she has done in the name of Willard patients.
There will be a rare opportunity to see the grounds of Willard next Saturday the 18th May. I have copied and pasted all the information that I have at this point, and you can view it below. I would highly recommend that anyone who is in the area and is interested make the effort to attend. / This photograph is from my first visit to Chapin House after it had been closed for several years.
Willard Psychiatric Hospital WILLARD – Organizers of the guided tours at the former Willard Psychiatric Center on May 18 are trying something new. This year only two starting times are scheduled for tours so visitors will have more of a chance to explore 9 of the structures that grace the landmark hospital on Route 96A.
“We used to have three starting times but people never had enough time to travel through these incredible buildings so we decided to limit it to two,” said organizer Lee Anne Fox. “This will improve the flow of people and give our 35 volunteers the chance for a lunch break.”
The two-and-a-half hour tours are slated to begin promptly at 9:30am and 1pm at the Grandview Building, built in 1860 and now used by the Finger Lakes Federal Credit Union. Other buildings that will be recognized by those familiar with the site, which began its history in 1869 as the New York State Agricultural College, include Brookside, Bleak House, Hadley Hall and the Mortuary.
Current stones in the Willard Cemetery have only a number, and no name.
Current stones in the Willard Cemetery have only a number, and no name.
Former Willard hospital employees and some current staff of the Willard Drug Treatment Campus, which took over the property in 1995, will be available to answer questions and offer background during the event. Some may discuss ghost sightings that have been the subject of television shows. Visitors will also have the chance to inspect the Willard Cemetery where 5,776 Willard patients were buried from 1870 to 2000. An effort has been underway to restore the cemetery, which is adjacent to hospital grounds.
Cost of admission to the tour is $10 per person. Children under 12 years of age are free. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center, an accredited not-for-profit daycare center in the Jackson Building, which once housed Willard’s School of Nursing and is also on the tour. Parking is free.
For additional information contact Carly Hungerford at (607) 869-5533.
In March I was contacted by Jain Lemos from the ASPP.
She had seen the Salon piece on the suitcases just as she was putting the finishing touches on the latest issue of their quarterly magazine. Jain knew that it would be very last minute, but we managed to select images and I wrote 400 words about the project. I loved her idea of featuring the preservation of the suitcases and contents, especially how the New York State Museum spent so much time and care on the cataloging and conservation aspect. Yesterday I received a few copies directly from the printer and the story looks great. They used a cropped shot of the glycerine bottle on the contents page, and as you can see above, eight shots were used in the spread. The magazine is available only to members, but the story should be up online in a month or so. It is a really great organization and not just for photographers; many members are picture editors and others who work directly with images in other ways. If you work with images in any way, it might be a good idea to check them out.