Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcase #21 / Irma M.

Posted in Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 17/07/2013

I was back at the museum shooting suitcases yesterday.  Irma’s possessions were in several storage boxes and we weren’t able to finish up last week.  This time I concentrated on some of her travel memorabilia and a few pieces of fabric.

As I had mentioned in last week’s post, she seems to have travelled extensively before coming to Willard.  One of the boxes contained many items from Scandinavia including this beautiful collection of photographs from Norway.

She was quite a collector.

This interesting card was addressed to her when she was in New York City and I think it might have been from her sister.  Below is the reverse side.

And it appears that she spent time taking the cure at Mont-Dore.

This brochure is very cool.

For those of you fortunate enough to read French, you can get an idea about the treatments available.  I am totally diggin’ les “Costumes du Mont-Dore”.

Here is a small section of the map that opened up in the center of the brochure.

And here she is in all her beauty.  Heart-breaking.  Note the sheet music in the photo on the left.

There was a large collection of family snapshots.

And I believe that the gentleman on the bottom left is her brother or brother in law.

This is a detail of a bathrobe that was obviously hand sewn.

Above are two beautiful scarves with this small clutch purse.

And a nice detail of the beads on the clutch.

Yesterday I also shot a case of a woman named Josephine who came to Willard at the age of 25 in 1898 and died at the institution in 1973.  Her case is the oldest in the collection and I hope to post some shots next week.  Thanks for following, and thanks so much to the New York State Museum for allowing me access to this amazing collection.

9 Responses

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  1. Sylvia Poole said, on 17/07/2013 at 9:07 pm

    I so enjoy seeing all this incredible history . We have come such a long way in the treatment of mental illness but we should never forget those who were not lucky enough to get the same treatment. And mental illness is not prejudice. This woman obviously lived a privileged life. Looking forward to more:). Thank you for sharing.

  2. David said, on 17/07/2013 at 10:27 pm

    Each of your postings make me think about what I would take with me if I were going to either a place of hope or dread. I also pause in my day job of building a new psychiatric hospital and think about the patients rather than just the day’s set of questions and challenges.

  3. charlotte cooperstein said, on 18/07/2013 at 12:08 am

    Your work is beautiful.

  4. Barbara Swinney said, on 18/07/2013 at 3:42 am

    Beautiful photos! Think of all the places Irma had been and the sights she held in her memories. The photos are lovely and must have been a constant comfort to view through the years. I wonder if Irma’s family were able to visit her at Willard? Thank you for sharing Irma’s life with us.

  5. Colleen Janes said, on 18/07/2013 at 11:26 am

    Absolutely fascinating…yet so sad. Josephine spent 75 years there and died at the age of 100. So hard to imagine.

  6. Hank. said, on 18/07/2013 at 4:08 pm

    How lovely to see older photographs with the subjects smiling…so often that wasn’t the case with the Victorians. Wonderful!

  7. Sue T. said, on 18/07/2013 at 4:29 pm

    As a person who has visited Scandinavia many times, I would love to look through all of her memorabilia. Thanks for this tantalizing glimpse of her treasured possessions.

  8. lsstuhler said, on 19/07/2013 at 1:58 pm

    I thought this looked familiar. This Irma came from a wealthy French family. Her story is told in Darby Penney’s book, “The Lives They Left Behind.” Wonderful photos Jon!

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