Jon Crispin's Notebook

Binghamton Asylum Glass Plate Negatives

Posted in Asylums, History, Medicine, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 04/02/2013

In the late 1980’s Brad Edmondson and I went down to the Binghamton asylum buildings that I was photographing for my original New York State asylum project.  While were in the “Castle” building we came across a room that was filled with boxes of glass plate negatives of patients from the early days of the asylum.  It was an amazing trove of images and we immediately hoped to be able to do something with them.  We had no luck getting access, but I have thought about them over the years.  Craig Williams from the New York State Museum arrived at the facility on the morning of 11 September, 2001 to have a look, but events of that day put the kibosh on his access.  About a month ago I heard that the Broome County Historical Society had finally made arrangements to check out the plates.  On Friday I went to Binghamton to have a look at their efforts to organize, clean, and catalogue every plate.  It is such a relief to know that they are finally in safe hands and will be preserved.

The negative’s eventual home  is still up in the air, but the Greater Binghamton Heath Center which runs the facility is eager to get them into safe hands.  Here you see one of the volunteers cleaning the non emulsion side of a plate.  They are all a bit dusty, but otherwise in amazing condition.

Here’s another box of unexposed plates.  Love the graphic design.

I am always on the lookout for bits of ephemera from the buildings.  Another object from the collection is this very cool typewriter.

I’ve never seen one like this and haven’t had the time to research the brand.  Anyone out there ever heard of the Printype Oliver Typewriter?

It is a beautiful machine and I like the little character in the photo below.

Old keyboards are also interesting.

Thanks to the Broome County Historical Society and the Greater Binghamton Health Center for allowing me to see the plates.  And to Roger Luther who like me has a great interest in New York State asylums.

6 Responses

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  1. Photobooth Journal said, on 04/02/2013 at 5:10 pm

    I do hope you will be able to share some of the printed photos with us at some stage – assuming they will be printing them. I would have ached to get my hands on them and make sure they were safe, too. There must be some amazing faces in there.

  2. craig said, on 04/02/2013 at 5:15 pm

    I’m so glad that the images and other artifacts are being saved! Great that you were there to see this. A special thanks to Roger Luther and the other volunteers!! Roger’s website nysasylum.com is excellent too. Craig

  3. Dee said, on 04/02/2013 at 6:43 pm

    Love news about the preservation of history. Do hope to learn more about collection.

  4. Julia said, on 05/02/2013 at 12:12 am

    Here is a little bit I found on the Oliver MP1048 Typewriter. “The Oliver is one of the most remarkable machines in typewriter history. With its inverted u-shaped type bars that swing down from two towers, the shape of the machine automatically focuses the typist on the text that is visible while writing. Circa 1920s.”

  5. Hank. said, on 05/02/2013 at 12:16 pm

    Hey Jon, so interesting that you’ve run across this wacky typewriter–just a couple of weeks ago I did the same at a local shop. It was so cool I was just about to snatch it up (I’ve wanted an old-fashioned typewriter for awhile now) until I looked at the price tag: upwards of $350. Now, that may just reflect Seattle boutique prices, but Hank’s nowhere near that fancy.

    I’ll swing by later in the week and take some photos if the typewriter’s still there and send them along. It’s just a little different than the one you have pictured here, but equally neat looking! The other thing that really caught my eye was the size. It is tiny! Perfect for a Seattle dog-sized house.

    • joncrispin said, on 06/02/2013 at 10:34 am

      Hi Hank, thanks for the note. There is a great typewriter shop in downtown Amherst that has all sorts of oddball machines. Most are really cheap. I’ll have a look later today and see if they have anything of interest. My son and I have been keeping our eyes open for an Olivetti M40. Here’s a link to one of my first WP posts.


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