Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Knots

Posted in History, Mental Health, Willard Asylum by joncrispin on 15/04/2015

I am often asked if I have a favorite suitcase or photo from the project.  I don’t, really.  But one recurring theme is the idea of knots.  It started initially with the string that the museum used to secure the archival paper that helps to preserve each case.  But soon I started to see them in the possessions of the patients, especially the clothing.  Peg and I worked on more of Margaret D’s things yesterday, and this shot of a beautiful camisole shows a lovely little knot tied near one of the straps.

Here is an example from the outside of Eleanor G’s case.

I have been uploading more case to the willardsuitcases.com site.  Check it out if you haven’t been there lately.

4 Responses

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  1. Léa said, on 18/04/2015 at 11:09 am

    What irony! When we get to the end of our rope, we are told to tie a knot and hang on or the feeling of being all tied up in knots… If one cannot speak or is not listened to they can tie up something so basic as clothing. The knots are a metaphor for it all? N’est-il pas?

    • B. Swinney said, on 19/04/2015 at 10:40 am

      Lea…that is a very interesting idea. The subject of the suitcases themselves are so interesting and fascinating to me. There are so many things that speak to me as well…the clothing..the photos, etc. I especially like the Photos and the little advertisements and pamplets of things the owner was interested in. It makes me realize that there was something so part of their life, that they had to pack it to carry with them. We all have something like that .. a photo, a ribbon, a button, a leaflet, a torn ticket, a Bible and a tract, etc. I have begun to wonder within myself what I would have packed myself if I knew that suitcase would hold my most precious memories. I have a memory boy and little things that when I pass will probably just be thrown away because these items mean nothing to the person that finds it in my cedar chest that my parents gave me when I was 17…I am 65 now. Thank you Jon for continuing to share the memories of the owners of the suitcases.

      • Léa said, on 19/04/2015 at 10:51 am

        There is also the fact that knots can represent being tied up and/or restrained. Each suitcase is so filled with symbolism, I wish I could see them personally and write their stories/poems.

      • joncrispin said, on 21/04/2015 at 9:04 am

        Lea and Barbara, I am so pleased that you both are commenting and, in a way, connecting with each other. I really appreciate that you both have been following the project for so long. Peggy and I continued to shoot Margaret’s things yesterday. I’ll post something later today. All best to you both.


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