In the late afternoon of 28 October, 2011 I picked up Peter at Union and he and I were heading home for the weekend. Cristine was working in the Middle East, and the weather forecast was calling for a major storm. I was partway through the first suitcases Kickstarter campaign, and feeling unsure as to how it would all work out. We stopped at the first rest area on the MASS PIKE to get gas (and I think a packet of Hostess Cup Cakes). I looked at my phone and something like 80 emails that had just come in. I really thought there was a problem with my account and that the server was just resending old mail that I had already viewed. When I looked closely I realized that all the email had come from Kickstarter. They had just featured me as a “project we love”, and I immediately met my goal. That early winter storm rolled in big time and we were without electricity for the next 2 days. Wild./ Yesterday, I was shooting the suitcases in Rotterdam and was aware that the current Kickstarter appeal was ending in the evening. As I was driving east on the pike towards home, I stopped for gas at that same rest area, looked at my phone and saw this ($20,879 pledged with 341 backers, funding successful). It seemed just right that I discovered that both projects had gone over the top at the same location.
This is one of yesterday’s cases. It belonged to Joseph K.
Thank you all for your support and interest in the project. And a huge thanks to the folks at Kickstarter for running a great organization, and providing a venue that enables independent projects like this one to be successful.
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.
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.
We had a very productive day shooting the cases yesterday. We made it through another box, and it continues to feel like we are making real progress. For the second week in a row, I was knocked out by a case when I opened it up. This one had the classic type of latch that makes such a familiar sound when you slide the buttons to release the locks. And I really liked the design and pleasant shade of grey.
Whoa, what a case!
Margaret S came to Willard on 6 June, 1967 and went to Ward 2 in the Hatch Building.
I have just cleared the $8,000 mark on the Kickstarter appeal, and I am very grateful for the support. We still have a long way to go before we reach our goal so I would really appreciate anything that could be done to spread the word. Thanks for following.
I was looking at the paperwhites today and, well…..something seemed a bit odd. It took me a second to realize that, HEY, those aren’t paperwhites! These daffodils snuck in somehow (hangin’ with their paperwhite friends and makin’ mischief; sure we’ll come along. Sounds like fun). Totally unexpected and somewhat of a shock. I am so clueless about bulbs, but I now presume you can force just about anything indoors. Does anyone know if you can do this with tulips as well? Seeing these guys was a very pleasant surprise.
Welcome to all of you have been following the Kickstarter suitcase project. It might seem confusing to see “non suitcase” posts here, but I like to mix things up a bit on this site. Thanks to all of you backers. Cheers.
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
I often talk about the unique nature of the suitcase collection, and at times refer to the truly incredible job the New York State Museum did in preserving the cases and their contents.
The above photo is a great example of the museum’s work. The only items in Benjamin’s case were the original label, a toothpick, and a tiny scrap of paper. When we opened this case, the label was in one archival bag, and the toothpick and paper scrap were in another. This may be something only museum curators and conservators can truly appreciate, but we are all beneficiaries of the care and concern shown to these materials.
I also often mention the major contribution Peggy Ross makes to this project, but today she really did something huge. Over the last few months she has been working on a database of everything we have shot and what is left to do. She made this list while I was shooting today, and just seeing it made me feel that not only have we made real progress, but now being able to complete a documentation of the entire collection seems within reach. We now know exactly what remains to be shot and, that makes me feel really good.
It was great to see my friend Connie Houde who was working at the storage facility today. She is on staff at the museum and is also a really interesting photographer. She’s been working on updating her website and you should check it out here.
Thanks for following. 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.