I am in a motel in Erie, PA on my way to Wittenberg University where I will be spending the next few days talking to faculty and students about the suitcase project. I am really excited about this and owe a debt of thanks to my friend Peter Wray for reconnecting me to Witt.
I was back in Rotterdam at the storage facility shooting suitcases this past Friday. The last time I was there, Peggy and I were only able to get part way through Joseph A’s possessions, and I was really eager to finish up. I posted about that day here. Most of what was in his two large trunks was clothing, and as I have said before, setting up this sort of shot is difficult for me.
Thank goodness for Peg. I have mentioned before just how important she is to the project. I probably would have never done the second Kickstarter without her, or for that matter, even thought about shooting all 400 of the suitcases. Friday was a good case in point. Every single article of clothing in Joseph’s collection had been assigned a catalogue number by the museum. This meant taking the objects out of their archival boxes, keeping track of the small pieces of paper on which those numbers were written, hiding the numbers in the folds of the clothes so they weren’t visible in the photographs, setting up the shot, taking the photographs, rematching all the numbers with the articles, and finally putting them back into their designated storage boxes. We worked for about four hours on this one trunk; had I been alone it would have taken days.
And in addition to all of this detail work, she helps to organize the shots, and sees things that I would otherwise miss. When we were putting Joseph’s clothes away, she pointed out that his initials had been embroidered onto the collar of his pajamas, and it makes for a lovely picture.
So a huge thank you to Peg for her organizational skills, hard work, and dedication to the project. I couldn’t do this without her.
I am back shooting suitcases after a bit of a break. Peg has been traveling as have I, and it feels great to be working on the project again. / Joseph A. has a huge number of items in the collection. There were about 15 museum boxes in one of the big storage containers. It is always a bit intimidating with so many artifacts, especially when a large number of the items are clothing. In Joseph’s case it was interesting because half of the clothes were women’s. It wasn’t until we got deep into the setup that we found this card with the “Wife’s clothing” writing on it. As with most of the information that we glean from the objects, we can only guess the circumstances of Joseph’s admission to Willard. In this case though, it is very likely that his wife was deceased and he brought all her things with him. (This included a ton of household items such as sheets, towels, napkins, etc.) Very sad and touching.
I will be presenting the project at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY on (next) Wednesday the 5th of November. The event is at the Auburn Public Theatre at 7.00 PM and there is a $10.00 admission fee ($5.00 for members). I will also be talking about my NY State prison documentation project. If you follow this blog, please come up and say hi. It would be great to meet you.
There is a nice comment on the Foundling post from Nikki Soppelsa. She reminded me that she was indeed one of the people who told me about the collection in London. Check out her great blog here. And thanks Nikki. Also my friend Connie Frisbee Houde sent me the link about the fabric exhibit at The Foundling.
These hair pins were in a case when I last shot in Rotterdam. I don’t have my notes with me to credit the owner, but I’ll try to update when I am back in the studio.
I also wanted to mention that the folks at outhistory.org sent me an interesting link about Lucy Ann Lobdell, who was a patient at Willard. And Claire Potter posted about the project on their blog. Thanks to Jonathan Ned Katz and Claire.
Peg and I had a very productive day yesterday. We made it through an entire storage box of suitcases; we must have shot at least 14. Most were close to being empty. This safety pin was (barely) holding one of the ribbons that secures items on the bottom of the case. It is a lovely shade of green. This case belonged to Mary E. B.
I am sitting in terminal 3 at Heathrow waiting to be picked up by John Wilson. Nice to be back in England.
I took the train into New York City (125th Street Station) yesterday to speak to faculty and students at The Columbia Center for Archaeology. One of the (newly tenured!) faculty, Zoe Crossland, had been an early supporter of the suitcases, and through her I was introduced to Brian Boyd, who directs the center. I spoke there two years ago and really enjoyed interacting with the whole group. When I present to organizations like this, I get so much positive feedback that it really fuels me to keep going. Yesterday, it was mostly grad students and faculty and I was thrilled to interact with folks who are so involved in their own projects. As the shooting begins to wind down, I hope to be able to spend a lot of time at colleges and universities talking about the collection. So thanks to Zoe and Brian. It was a great experience.
Peggy and I are were back shooting last week, and found John H’s case to be really interesting. More cutlery and lots of tools and knives.
I wanted to mention that I have been asked to participate in a TEDx event on Martha’s Vineyard on the 19th of August. Details here. I am very excited about this as I will be showing prints and getting the chance to meet some very interesting people. If any of you are able to make it, I’d be happy to see you.
There is a very interesting article in today’s Finger Lakes Times. Here is the link. It brings up the whole issue of names and honoring those who lived and worked at Willard, and is well worth the read.
I shot Theresa’s case recently and it contained some interesting articles. If anyone out there can tell me for what “Banana Liquid” was used, I’ll send you a postcard. Reply in comments and I will get in touch and ask for a mailing address.
Hi everyone. Fred T’s suitcase is really interesting. I have just uploaded it to the willardsuitcases.com site and you should check it out (Click on “The Cases” and then click on Fred T). It was a great case for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it proves that many residents of Willard were free to walk the grounds and to leave on occasion.
He also clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Fred’s other interest was railroads. He made a comprehensive list of every train station in the United States.
The stations were alphabetized on these sheets of paper that were then folded into three columns. On the open one you can see Meadville, PA, which is the town where I grew up. My parents used to pile my siblings and me into the station wagon and we would go down to watch the evening passenger train go through.
It is poignant to see the dates on Fred’s diary. It makes his life seem all the more real to me. Sunday the 11th April, 1926 was a day that Fred wrote about, and now we are able to learn something about his life more than 88 years later . Amazing
This coming Saturday morning (14 June), Karen Miller and I will be talking about our work with the suitcases at the annual conference of the New York State Historical Association. It will be held at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. There is a Saturday only fee of $25.00 to attend, but it would be great to see any of you who could make it. Karen will be reading some of her poems and I will talk about my work with the cases.
Finally, the Italian site La Repubblica did a very nice spread on the project. Check it out here. Thanks Agnese!