I have learned so much from people who stumble across the project and take the time to comment. Simon wrote in to say this about the photographs. “The psychology of keeping belongings is as complicated and as deep as the human spirit itself, the depth of which we will never see. Lets hope recording this project takes us closer.”
Thanks, Simon. Such a perceptive look at my work with the collection, and I really appreciate your insight.
I had photographed John R’s case over two different days, and yesterday when I edited and uploaded the photographs from the second shoot I was reminded how much fun it was to see what he brought with him to Willard.
He clearly had a thing for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, as well as for these discreetly covered women.
John was clearly learning to speak English, as there were lots of worksheets where he was practicing his vocabulary.
It is possible that John worked for a time at GE as he had these brochures about insurance and a pension plan.
The Mickey Rooney photo is pretty nice.
This is a good time to remind you all about the comments on this site. It is not obvious where to click to see them, but it usually worth the effort. At the very bottom of the post is a small “comments” button. Click it to see what folks are saying. The dress that I posted last week has been getting quite a few interesting responses, including an amazing one that just came in from my pal Dhyan. Check it out.
When I talk about the project I am often asked if I have a favorite suitcase. My answer is always the same; from the start, I have seen the collection as a whole and no case stands out to me. But I do have some favorite photographs from the project, and this is one of them.
The dark glasses are pretty cool.
This was the first time I had ever seen an actual Shinola tin.
We saw several of these Yardley Talc containers.
I have uploaded the rest of the photos from John’s case at the suitcases site. Check it out!
There are two upcoming events near to me where I will be talking about the suitcases. I’ll have copies of the second Kickstarter reward book for sale at the Hadley, MA Barnes & Noble this Saturday the 18th. I’ll be there from 2.00 – 5.00 PM. Come by and say hi. And on Monday I will be giving a talk at the Amherst Woman’s Club. I expect to start at 1.00 PM.
Thanks for following!
This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.
There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.
In the image below, I love how the two horizontal lines at the bottom of the dress seem to me to indicate water. And is that a spigot just above the lines?
Here is the reverse side of the above figure. I was thinking at the time we were shooting that people who do embroidery might like to see this view.
This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.
The faces she does are so expressive.
Here is another detail of a hand, and I am not sure what is represented coming out of what appears to be a pocket.
The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.
Is this another face?
Her use of lines is very cool.
I have been trying to figure out how the grid below fits in to the overall design. At first I thought it represented a building, but I am not so sure.
And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.
Thanks for checking this out. I will continue my efforts to find the name of the Willard patient who created this. In the meantime you can continue to see the latest uploads of the cases at the Willard Suitcases site.
There are quite a few items in the Willard collection at the New York State Museum that are not part of my suitcases documentation. These “institutional” pieces were too numerous to photograph, but this embroidered dress just had to be documented. The work was done by a patient who is not identified, but I am in touch with some folks who worked at Willard who might know who created this.
This will be a photo heavy post with less text than in my usual posts, but the details in the dress are amazing and I wanted to share as many as I could.
It wasn’t just the amazing designs; the precision of the embroidery knocked us out.
There were a good number of cats on the dress.
This one seems to be hovering over a plant.
Not sure what is going oh above, but the orange is such a beautiful color.
This looks to me like a cat but what is it doing? Any thoughts?
I love how this person’s hair is rendered.
The orange flower in her hair is lovely.
These little flowers are so delicate.
The watch and ring on this figure are such a nice touch.
Thanks so much to Peg Ross for helping me set the dress up in order to photograph it. I am terrible at stuff like this, and as usual, she really made it happen. And if I remember correctly, Connie Houde from the museum was also there to assist.
I hope to post the back of the dress (I want to keep calling it a shift; is that correct?) sometime soon. I leave Atlanta later today but will head out to the Botanical Garden before my flight. Thanks for following.
I continue to make good progress uploading to the suitcases site. Issac’s case had just a few items, but the buttons are nice, as well as the safety pins. I especially like the folding coat hangar.
Peggy and I were thrilled to open Alice’s case and see the beautiful lining.
Check out the latest at willardsuitcases.com.
Thanks for following.
I am just about finished up editing the December 2013 shoots.
The cases were mostly empty, but this newspaper is interesting. It describes a particularly tragic boating accident in Alexandria Bay, NY that occurred in August of 1929. I did a bit or research. Here’s a link to an online newspaper archive that goes into some detail. It wasn’t completely unusual for a suitcase to contain a complete section of a newspaper and little else. I wonder if H. L. had any connection to the Lipe family. (Lipe is not his surname.)
Walter arrived in February of 1945. Nelson Rockford Socks are still available.
Mary Agnes’ case just had this little metal clasp, a shoelace, a hairpin, and a label.
And a pair of “leather-like” boots.
Baker’s case was the only one where we found a bit of “racy” material. Look closely to see the title of the painting. Cheeky!
The storage facility wasn’t always the warmest place to work (except in the summer). Peggy Ross was always such a sport though, and only rarely complained. We ate a lot of hot/sour soup from the local Chinese restaurant for lunch, which helped us get through the day.
Check out the Willard Suitcases site to see the latest. Thanks for following.
I have been editing and uploading the suitcases in the order in which they were shot. This process is quite drawn out as I shot well over 30,000 images during the project and it is an enormous task. I have been feeling really good about it though, as I am spending most days until 1 PM working on the files. The photos in this post are all from a shoot on the 11th of December 2013. At this point, Peg and I had worked through many of the suitcases that were full, and in this stretch the cases were largely empty except for labels.
Mary’s labels are quite evocative. The small one on the left is unfortunately torn, so we can’t see her date of admittance, but the larger one on the right tells us that she came from Syracuse. Dr Elliott’s name shows up often in our work, and I must assume that Elliott Hall at Willard is named after him. (I can’t remember if I have ever linked to this before, but Dr. Robert E. Doran wrote a history of Willard in 1978 that is really interesting. Here is the link.)
There are so many small details that grabbed my attention when I was shooting. This is all that was left of Mabel Y’s label.
Norah’s label tells us quite a lot. Her Willard number, her date of admission, from where she came and into which building she went. Peggy and I often had a laugh over the description of the suitcases; “leather-like” was used constantly. And occasionally “cardboard-like” appeared. When you think of it, cardboard-like is probably…..cardboard!
Ida came to Willard on 16 November 1929. The string on the label is pretty and the Syracuse Post-Standard is from June of 1929.
Charles and his small leather grip arrived from the Binghamton State Hospital.
Richard’s case was clearly a traveling salesman’s and was completely empty.
Here is a detail. The Zanol Company was based in Cincinnati.
Finally for today, Alice R’s case had this nice thermometer, a clasp for holding up a stocking, and a card from a Christmas present.
Please go to the Willard Suitcases site to see more photographs of these particular cases. Click on “The Cases” and scroll down to the bottom to see the latest additions. Thanks for following.
I am getting a lot of editing done lately, and am feeling great about the images.
Stuart’s (maybe Stuert, it appears both ways) case was full of interesting toiletries. Several of the residents had Dr. Lyon’s Tooth Powder.
I have always wanted to avoid “fetishizing” the objects that came to Willard with the patients, but the design of the items in Stuert’s case really grabbed me.
The attention to detail in commercial design during the time of these products is impressive.
This Ever-Ready shaving brush had quite a bit of use.
I love the typeface (or is it font?) on the Mennen talcum powder. One wonders about the “neutral” tint, and on just how many faces it wouldn’t show.
The above image is one of my favorites from the project.
The Mennen Company is still in business, and are mostly known for their deodorants.
Lander Perfumer; New York, Memphis, Montreal, and……Binghamton!
I am glad I (or Peg) thought to photograph the back of the “Locktite Humidizer”.
It keeps your tobacco fresh, and they are definitely out of business.
Thanks for following. I have been uploading a ton of new cases on the Willard Suitcases site. Go check it out, and don’t forget to click on the “view all” link at the bottom of each page. 25 is the default number and in many instances, there are more than that number in the gallery.
I was listening to “With Great Pleasure” on Radio 4 today while I was editing these photographs and heard this Oscar Wilde quote from “De Profundus”. “Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground”. I think he was right on the money.
I have been spending a lot of time editing the suitcases in the past few weeks, and have set a goal to finish all of that work by early April. Over the 5+ years of shooting, the amount of images generated is quite massive. So check out the willardsuitcases.com site if you haven’t been there lately. All of the recent folks are at the bottom of “The Cases” page. I am uploading on a regular basis. Most of the cases that I have been working on are not very full, but the labels are so evocative. Bertha S was clearly at the Newark State School (The New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women) before she came to Willard.
Florence G. arrived at Willard in 1936 and lived in Eliott Hall. Her two cases contained little more than some coat hangars, a key, and a label.
On Ida’s label, the “returned from family” line is interesting and a bit sad. One always wonders what kind of connection the patients at Willard had with their families.
Ellen H. arrived in March of 1967. This type of tie down ribbon was common in many of the suitcases. The green is such a beautiful color.
When I ran the second Kickstarter appeal, the top reward was a limited edition book that was for backers at the $500.00 level. I had 40 printed and still have a few left that are numbered and signed. If you would like to help the project in a big way, I would be most grateful for the support.
Many of you have asked about a book, and I realize that $500.00 is beyone the budget of a lot of the followers of this project. So I have had another run of the reward book printed. It is a slim volume that contains 32 suitcase photos and a picture of the attic where the cases were stored, along with a bit of text. I am selling these for $60.00 + $10.00 shipping and they are really beautifully designed and printed. If you are interested, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will then get an invoice through Square, which processes my transactions, and once payment is made, I will ship it right out. Paypal also works for me, and if you email me, I’ll give you the details. If you want one for yourself and one as a gift, I’ll send along two for $100.00 (plus the $10.00 shipping).
Thanks again for following and for all the support.
The visit to WUNC went really well. Frank Stasio was a great interviewer and it was fun to chat with him and Rose Hoban, whose interest in the suitcases brought me to Raleigh for the Lives on the Hill event. Here is a link to the broadcast.
I am staying with my friends Eric and Gail Vaughn and yesterday they drove me over the Dix grounds so I could get my bearings. I saw this marker for the cemetery and we stopped to walk around.
I was actually shocked to see that the grave markers used names instead of numbers as New York State does. And it made me both sad and angry that New York still refuses to allow former patients to be identified.
It would seem such an easy thing to change, but New York State OMH has no interest in doing so.
Please go to Lin Stuhler’s site and read her goodbye post. She has said it much better than I ever could.
Tonight is the reception at The Mahler Fine Art gallery in Raleigh and tomorrow is the big public event. If you are in the area please come by. Thanks for following.