Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Ethel T B / NYC Event (way cool)

Willard Suitcases

Julianne Wick Davis has been working on a song cycle based on my photographs of the suitcases for the past several years.  Here is a link to a previous post.  She is nearing completion of the process and is starting to move to the next stage.

I am very excited to announce that she has put together a preview of the work that will take place at Joe’s Pub in New York City on the 3rd of May.  Here is a link to where tickets can be purchased.  If you are in the New York area and can make it to the show, it should be amazing.  I’ll be there and I am hoping that Peggy Ross can make it as well.  We are so excited about this.  The space is not huge, so I would encourage you all to get your tickets as soon as possible.  Hope to see you there.

The following Thursday (the 10th), I’ll be back on Roosevelt Island for another talk at the RI Historical society.  More on that soon.  That one is free and open to the public.

Willard Suitcases / Editing

Freda B Willard Suitcase

This was the first case I photographed.  It was the 17th of March 2011.  Craig Williams had given me permission to gain access to the collection and I was very excited.  I remember setting up my wrinkled background and fiddling with my lights.  It struck me at the time that it would be interesting to document the entire process of shooting the cases, including what they looked like after the museum had wrapped them back up after the conservation process.

This is part of what I saw when I finally got the case open.  Quite a way to start the project.  This is what I posted about that first day.

Today at about 2.30 I finished editing all of the cases that we have shot, and uploaded the final photographs to the suitcases site.  This case belonge to Lawrence R.  I especially like the headline in the Democrat and Chronicle.

This day has been a long time in coming.  We will see what happens with the project in the fullness of time, but I am very excited and happy to have made it this far.

Connie Houde was kind enough to take this picture of Peg and me on that last day of shooting.  I think champagne might have been involved.

There are too many folks to thank for all of the support, encouragement, and love that I have felt since I began photographing the suitcases in 2011.  But I think of you all the time.  Thank you all.

Willard Suitcases / Rodrigo L Final

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L.

This morning I uploaded the last of the photographs of Rodrigo’s possessions.  His cases were really interesting and you can check them all out here.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L.

Rodrigo maintained a strong connection his native Philippines, and also had an interesting collection of books.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L.

There were several items pressed between the pages of a few of them.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L.

This hat was pretty cool and the white object at the bottom seems to be shark’s teeth strung together into some sort of necklace.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L.

Peg and I shot our last suitcase on Monday the 9th of November 2015.  I will be editing that work in a day or two, and that will be it as far as what was in the New York State Museum collection.  Craig Williams seems to remember that there are a few cases that never went to the Museum that are in the Romulus Historical Society.  If so, we’ll try to track those down and photograph them.  I photographed the first case (Freda B) on the 17th of March 2011, and this has been quite an amazing ride.  I just want to thank all of you who follow the project for all the good wishes, support, and interest.  Now that the editing is just about done, I’ll be spending much of my time moving on to the next stage.  I’ll also take a minute to thank Peggy Ross again for her continued help.  I couldn’t have done this without her.

Willard Suitcases / Rodrigo L again

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

I am back to editing more of Rodrigo L’s papers.  This is an amazing photo postcard. / Rodrigo lived in Salt Lake City during his high school years.  Many of his yearbooks are in his collection as well as a ton of materials related to his Pilipino experience in the US .

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

He came to the American West sometime in the early part of the 20th Century, which makes me wonder what his experience adapting to his new life was like.

Willard Suitcases
Rodrigo L

You can check out the latest at the suitcases site.

I have just three more shoots to edit.  I have a feeling that when I finish that part of the project I will be very emotional and a little bit at sea.  Still lots to do though, including finding a publisher and museums / galleries for exhibits.  I started shooting the cases in March of 2011.  It has been quite a run.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I have posted about Madeline before and her possessions represent a very interesting life before she came to Willard.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Throughout this project I have consciously tried to avoid obvious links between the objects in the collection and any sort of connection to being institutionalized, but  I found it interesting that this was the only recording among Madeline’s things.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She came to Willard with a fairly complete record of her life in New York City, including her time studying at Columbia University and Hunter College.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She seemed to be interested in philosophy.  There were quite a few references to Bergson in her papers.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her handwriting was really lovely.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her diaries were especially complete.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I searched online for this poem thinking that she might have copied it as an exercise in writing in English (her first language was French), but nothing turned up.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

In any event, it is an incredible piece of writing.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

It is especially interesting how well her life was documented in photographs, and that most of the images also had their original negatives.  Looking at the dates in her diaries, many of these were taken in the 1920s.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

The fox stole around her neck in the picture on the right is something that one doesn’t see anymore.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

I have stayed in the Prince George Hotel on W. 27th Street twice in my life.  Once in high school with my friends Jay, Jeff, and Dennis.  That was an interesting trip!  And once sometime in the 80s shortly before it became an SRO.  Quite interesting as well.

You can check out the photos of Madeline’s cases at the Willard Suitcases site.  Click on “The Cases”, scroll to the bottom and click on Madeline C.  Be sure to click “view all” as there are many more than 25 images.  The site was hacked into recently and everything seems to be sorted now.  Huge thanks to Steve Fox at Born Digital Web Design for getting it fixed.  He’s the man if you need a photo site set up.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C / UTMB

Willard Suitcases Project
Madeline C

I apologize for the long gap in posting about the suitcases.  It has been an incredibly busy time.  I have been devoting most of my mental energy getting prepared for a series of talks at the University of Texas Medical Branch that are scheduled for next week.  This is a huge honor for me, as I will be a visiting Osler scholar.  When I was in Galveston in 2016 presenting to NAMI Gulfcoast I was approached by Dr. Dwight Wolf about returning to speak at UT to the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department.  Cristine and I fly out on Sunday (weather dependent), and there are events scheduled for the whole week.

Here is a rundown.

Monday the 15th – I’ll be speaking about the suitcases and my other work at the Galveston Arts Center from 6-8 pm.

Tuesday the 16th – Osler Club Grand Rounds, Temple B’nai Israel, 3008 Avenue O, Galveston.  I believe this is open to the public but reservations are required.

Earlier that day I will present the project to residents at UTMB.  This is not open to the public.

Wednesday the 17th – IMH Colloquium at UTMB during the lunch hour.  Jennie Sealy Hospital.  This might be open to the public, I’m not sure.

That evening I’ll be speaking at the Galveston Historical Foundation about the suitcases and my other documentary institutional work.  6-7 pm at Menard Hall, 3302 Avenue O, Galveston.

Thursday the 18th – There is an open mic event with Dr. Steve Fisher with a display of photographs of both of our work.  Dr. Fisher has been photographing the collection of medical specimens at UTMB.  Should be interesting.  3rd Floor Old Red.  I’ve been told it is an amazing building.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Rodrigo L.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Rodrigo was an extremely literate man.  His collection of books was so interesting.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

He was a writer as well, as this editorial from his Salt Lake High School yearbook illustrates.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Rodrigo’s collection of books tells us so much about his view of the world.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

From reading his writings, I got the sense that he was a bit lonely, and deeply spiritual.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The autographs page of his yearbook had only his signature.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I love the logo for Oliver R. Meredith’s Trunk Factory.  I looked for information online about the business, and didn’t find much about the company, but did come across this great gallery of photographs of trunk manufacturers.

Willard Asylum Suitcases Rodrigo L ©2015 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

From time to time I like to post a nice photo of Peggy Ross, whom I can never thank enough for her help throughout the years that we have spent documenting the collection of suitcases.  I literally could not (and would not) have done this work without her help.

Thanks for following.  Check out all of Rodrigo’s collection here.  Moving on to Michael B. tomorrow.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 17 June 2015

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

I am pretty sure that this was the last day we photographed any of Margaret D’s things. It is possible that as I move through the editing process I will come across more of her possessions, but I think this is it.

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

It was a mixed bag of items that we saw on this day.

Willard Suitcases Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

Here is more of her work with a needle and thread.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D

This little button caught my eye.

Willard Suitcases  Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

I did a quick internet search for “TU-TEE” and found nothing.  This almost never happens anymore.  A commercial product with an interesting concept and zilch!  “This game is something different, and enjoyed by old and young alike.  It is replacing progressive card games in many sections of the country.”  Apparently not in that many sections of the country or there would be some evidence of it.  (Edit.  As I was reading this post once it was public, I realized that the type face on the TU-TEE box looks exactly like the one I use for all of these posts.  It is Palatino, and I’ve been using it for years.  What a strange coincidence.)

Willard Suitcases  Margaret D ©2015 Jon Crispin

This cup and saucer are so delicate and lovely.

So, that’s it for Margaret.  Hers is the most complete collection of household and personal items in all of the cases that I shot, and in a funny way, it is difficult to move on to other Willard patients.  Up next though is Herman G, whose story is fascinating in its own way. Thanks for following.  You can see all of the cases here, and all of Margaret’s here.  (Don’t forget to click on the “500” button at the bottom of the page, as I think the default page only shows the first 25.  And as there are over 600 photos in her collection, you have to click on the “next” button to see the rest.)

 

Anna Lucille Earley, Willard Nurse

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I got a call a few weeks ago from Craig Williams telling me that a trunk had been discovered in the attic of the Covert Funeral Home in Ovid, NY that belonged to a woman who was a nurse at Willard in the early part of the 20th Century.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

At that time Craig wasn’t too sure of many of the details but thought I might be interested if anything came of it.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig has been working at the Romulus Historical Society with Peggy Ellsworth who worked at Willard and has been a great friend to the suitcases project.  Peg has been the go-to person for all things Willard since the institution closed in 1995.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Last Friday Paul McPherson who is the current director of the funeral home brought the trunk to the historical society for Craig and Peg to have a look.  They were really enthused and Craig called to see if I could take a few photos as he unpacked the items and started to conserve and catalogue the collection.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The contents of the trunk are in great shape, and it is amazing to see how well preserved the items are.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I love seeing these old commercial products in their early packaging.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

There were several mounted photographs in the trunk, as well as this envelope which contain a large number of photographic negatives.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig scanned a few and the quality is amazing.

photo baseball rs

The Willard baseball team was almost certainly made up of staff, and not patients.  But one has to wonder if any of the patients ever made it onto the diamond.

photo nurses rs

I think this scan was from a print.  In addition to having worked at Willard as a nurse, she was a graduate of the institution’s school of nursing.  Craig and Peg are looking at the images to try to figure out which one in the photos is Anna.  None are identified on the back, so it might be quite a job.

earley neg 05s

The above photo is especially exciting, as the building in the background is the sheltered workshop where the suitcases were stored in the attic and were rediscovered in 1995.  The collection of cases dates from 1910 to 1965 and Anna was at Willard starting in the late teens, so it is very likely that she worked with some of the owners.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As we found in many of the suitcases there is a broad range of items in Anna’s trunk; she had saved things that can tell a fairly complete story of her life, and more broadly, what life at Willard was like in the 1920s.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This box contains a lot of personal correspondence, including some very interesting postcards.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It took a minute to figure out this one.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It became clear once we saw the “soldier’s mail” postmark.  Let’s hope H. C. Norris made it through the war safely.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As a nurse at Willard, she would have lived on the grounds and received her mail there.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This inscription is especially touching and a bit mysterious.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig and I didn’t have much time to go through the notebooks, but this is a huge trove of original source material that will be interesting to study once everything is catalogued.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Perhaps the most intriguing is this small diary from 1918 which contains day to day accounts of Anna’s life at Willard.  To the left is a playbill for “Farmer’s Daughter” which played at Hadley Hall on the Willard grounds.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna’s Student’s Note Book is pretty interesting.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Her hand writing is very readable.   I didn’t see any crossed out sections as I flipped through the pages.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This small brooch is pretty.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The trunk itself is is great shape.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Ovid.  Craig took this photo of her gravestone.

_DSC8853es

The Romulus Historical Society will be putting an exhibit together of the trunk and contents sometime soon.  The museum is located in the town of Willard and is only open until the end of September.  It is not clear if anything will happen before then, but Peggy is eager for the collection to see the light of day.  I’ll update here when I know details.  There is obviously a ton of work to be done researching Anna’s life, but this is really an amazing find.

Special thanks go to Paul McPherson for contacting the historical society with this incredible look into the life of Anna.  A find like this really brings history alive.  It will be interesting to see what develops once everything is conserved and catalogued.  And as always thanks to Peggy Ellsworth for her tireless work in remembering the patients and staff at Willard, and to Craig Williams for keeping me in the loop.

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 14 April 2015

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am working my way through Margaret’s cases and her collection never ceases to amaze me.  You can see the latest here. (Don’t forget to click “view all” as there are now close to 500 images in her collection.)

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret brought quite a number of sewing items with her when she came to Willard, including the above stencil with Masonic designs.

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am currently editing a shoot that was mostly delicate items like the above undergarment, as well as some of her nursing uniforms.  I’ll have a post up sometime in the next few days with those photos.

I would also mention that Margaret was one of the 10 folks originally featured in the State Museum’s 2004 exhibit.  The made-up surname they used for her was Dunleavy and if you do a search for her name and Willard you should come across very detailed information about her life.  The “Lives They Left Behind” book has a surprisingly complete history of her life before Willard.

I am often asked about how much I know about the patient’s lives before and during their time at the institution.  It is way too complex for me to elaborate here, but needless to say, I have very strong feelings about my need to separate the patient’s clinical lives from what we can learn about them through their possessions.  I tend to talk about it when I present the project to various groups, so maybe one day we will get the chance to meet up and chat.  Thanks for following.

%d bloggers like this: