Jon Crispin's Notebook

Talk of the Nation

Posted in Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 01/03/2013

Ari Shapiro, who is guest-hosting NPRs Talk of the Nation saw the Slate piece on the suitcases and thought it might be a good idea to have me on the show.  So,  this coming Monday at 3.40 pm Eastern time I will be interviewed, and there will probably be some time for phone calls. I am so pleased that the project is getting so much positive attention.  /  Welcome to all the recent guests to this site.  I would also like to add a note to all of you who have taken the time to comment here, or send me email.  I am really touched by the stories of your own connection to the asylums and to mental illness.  I always attempt to respond to you all, but lately I have really been inundated with mail due to the recent attention the cases have received.  Over the next few weeks, I will be cutting back on my other responsibilities to focus primarily on this project.  So if you haven’t heard back from me yet, I’ll hope to be in touch soon.

12 Responses

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  1. lsstuhler said, on 01/03/2013 at 12:10 pm

    Best of Luck to you, Jon!

  2. leamuse said, on 01/03/2013 at 12:20 pm

    Bonne chance!

  3. Molly said, on 01/03/2013 at 3:58 pm


  4. Hank. said, on 02/03/2013 at 4:22 pm

    GREAT news, Jon! Congratulations!

    • joncrispin said, on 04/03/2013 at 7:39 am

      Thanks Hank, The Pearl, Cris, and I are at the beach for a bit. It is so relaxing during a very busy time. We are very lucky to be here. Best, Jon

  5. jeanzimmerman said, on 03/03/2013 at 8:55 pm

    Cited your wonderful suitcase photos in my blog post today:

  6. Sharp Little Pencil said, on 03/03/2013 at 11:51 pm

    Jon, I learned about this project through Roger Green, who was a Kickstarter backer. He discussed your project at length and provided links.

    I am mentally ill, same as my grandmother – bipolar, which means she went through horrendous shock therapy in the 30s and 40s asylums These collections of items in the photos hold a special place in my heart, because I can see the whimsy in certain items and the profound depth in others.

    Best of luck as you pursue the project. You are a very special person, Blessings, Amy Barlow Liberatore
    (I call mental health consumers “the other-minded.” This poem explains it, and if you don’t have time to read it, I understand completely.)

  7. Barbara said, on 04/03/2013 at 11:28 am

    This has been a wonderful, beautiful project to support through Kickstarter. I am so glad you & the project are getting the much-deserved national notice!

  8. lisa daria kennedy said, on 05/03/2013 at 7:05 am

    I came across your story on NPR. This is such an unexpected form, these mini-time capsules are haunting yet make such beautiful photos and portraits.

  9. Christina said, on 09/03/2013 at 9:14 pm

    AMAZING!!! I’m so fascinated with abandoned buildings, discarded items and other oddities that tell a story. I love this project and can’t wait to see more!!

  10. Curious said, on 24/03/2013 at 11:00 am

    So when does the state plan on returning the property (either to the owner or the appropriate next of kin)?

    • joncrispin said, on 28/03/2013 at 12:16 pm

      Dear Curious, From the tone of your question I gather that you think that it might be easy to do this. I have answered this before in response to other comments, but I will try again. Many of the patients at Willard were put there by their families and forgotten. And with the strict HIIPA laws, it is not possible for me to publish the surnames of the patients who owned the cases. So family members who had relatives at Willard would not even be able to find out if the cases in the collection belonged to any relatives. I have been contacted by many people who had relatives at Willard and have always referred them to the New York State Archives, who have records of all patients. So, it is a problem with access to information, not as you imply, an unwillingness on the part of the state to return the cases to family members. By being able to photograph the cases I hope to humanize the patients, and nothing would make me happier than to return them to the families.

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