Jon Crispin's Notebook

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. / Ovid talk

Posted in History, Mental Health, old hotels, old photographs by joncrispin on 23/09/2015

One of the cool things for me about Madeline’s collection is that she had the negatives for many of her photographs.  The museum did a fantastic job in conserving and co-ordinating the negatives with the prints.

When I turned over this particular postcard, I was thrilled to see that she had stayed at the Prince George Hotel in New York City.  I have overnighted there twice, and both were memorable.  The first time I had just turned 16 and I, along with my friends Jeff, Jay, and Dennis drove to the city from Meadville and were there for a few nights.  The other occasion was sometime in the early 1980s.  That one got a bit weird.

Tomorrow I drive to Ovid for my talk at the public library.  Edith B. Ford Library, 7pm.  Hope to see you.  I also expect to be there on Friday at noon for a brown bag lunch.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C (update)

Posted in History, Institutions, Mental Health, old recordings by joncrispin on 01/09/2015

I was just speaking with my friend (and the person behind getting me access to the suitcases) Craig Williams.  He thanked me for the post I recently did about Madeline C, and mentioned that this exact recording of You’re Driving Me Crazy was online.  Here it is.

Unbelievable.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C

Peggy and I have been making great strides in shooting the cases that were returned from the Exploratorium.  Last week, we started in on Madeline C, and yesterday we worked on her books and papers.

Madeline’s life was very full before coming to Willard.

She was living in the New York City area, and taking classes at both Columbia and Hunter College.  You can see her Hunter ID card in the photograph above.

And here is a New York Public Library request form for a Sigmund Freud book.  Her studies seemed to be focused on philosophy and logic.

Madeline was quite a diarist and writer.

Somehow, she became a patient at Central Islip Psychiatric Center, and it was pretty clear that it wasn’t a great place for her.  We came across many letters that she wrote to doctors outside of the institution that were never mailed.  This is something that we rarely found at Willard.

Peg and I were both very moved by Madeline’s possessions. She was highly educated, completely bi-lingual in French and English (the original spelling of her name was Madeleine, so we assume she was born in France), and lived a very stimulating life before she was institutionalized.

This is just a tiny selection of her papers and books.  I could easily post 50 photographs of her things; something I will get to when I upload her to the willardsuitcases.com site.  Which given the sheer volume of images, might be a while.

Thanks to all of you for hanging in there with me on this.  I really think that I will be done with shooting in the next few weeks, and will move to spending at least a few days a week editing and uploading.  I am hoping to find some sort of artist’s retreat where I could spend a month just working on the project.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

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