Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase #15 » 20120518115

Willard Asylum Suitcases

©2012 Jon Crispin

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  1. […] In a moment of unique desperation at the boundaries of self-conscious reflection and mental illness, the suitcases might have been packed with a vast range of intentions by patients and families alike.  Dmytro, for instance, appears to have held tightly to his past, as did many of his fellow patients.  Irma had traveled throughout Europe (including a 1925 French trip documented in the notebooks in her Willard suitcase) and taught languages in New York City before being admitted to Willard in the late 1930s.  Like Dmytro her suitcase was laden with the evidence of a rich life before Willard, including a dense range of sheet music and travel literature.  Irma would never leave Willard, dying there in 1971.  Frank was admitted after World War II, and his suitcase included a dense collection of wartime paperwork documenting his service as well as his uniform and personal photographs (alongside objects like pliers and luggage tags).  Frank was only at Willard for three years, but he went from there to a Veteran’s Administration facility and never lived outside institutions before his death in 1984.  Anna died in Willard in 1987, leaving a suitcase with a carefully transcribed list of her stylish clothing, some of which remained in the suitcase.  Thelma’s fascinating suitcase included a collection of religious literature, dog figurines, the Tony Martin record “I Guess I’ll Have to Dream the Rest,” the circa 1948 pamphlet “A Primer on Race” by the Northern Baptist Convention Council on Christian Social Progress, and a figurine of a couple. […]

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