Jon Crispin's Notebook

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.

8 Responses

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  1. Photobooth Journal said, on 15/01/2013 at 8:56 pm

    Another fabulous reason to go to San Francisco – this exhibition, wet plate collodian photographers PhotoboothSF, the photobooth at Musée Mécanique, the food, the sites, and a million other things. Wish I could get there!!

  2. Mary Beaudry said, on 15/01/2013 at 9:59 pm

    I so agree; this has given me the strongest wish to go to SF to experience the exhibit. Do keep us posted on the details.

  3. Alisa said, on 15/01/2013 at 11:11 pm

    I’m very excited to hear this! I’ve been following your photos and am in the SF bay area (mentioned the suitcase project in the middle of a Jan. 30, 2012 post). The Exploratorium was always an interesting place and its move/expansion promises to be quite incredible. Their website is

  4. Rachel Stern said, on 18/01/2013 at 5:51 pm

    I am traveling to Seattle in mid-July. I am looking at arranging my flight for a stop over in SF to see the exhibit.

    • joncrispin said, on 21/01/2013 at 11:10 am

      I think the exhibit will be amazing. Thanks for going out of your way to see it. My component makes up 1/3 of the whole show. Some actual cases will be there and Karen Miller’s amazing poems. Best, Jon

  5. Elizabeth Toel said, on 19/01/2013 at 1:18 pm

    I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your site, but I fell in love with your suitcase photographs. Your attitude of respect and kindness towards their owners is so touching. I am very excited to hear that I can go to see them at the Exploratorium!

    • joncrispin said, on 21/01/2013 at 11:11 am

      Thanks so much for the comment. I’ll update when I’ll be out there for the artists talk. Maybe we can meet up. Best, Jon

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