On Tuesday the 9th of February I will be giving a presentation about the suitcases sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. It will take place at the New York Public Library branch, 524 Main Street on the island. The start time is 6.30 pm and I would encourage anyone coming to get there a bit early, as the branch closes at 7.45 and we will need to start on time.
There is very little on-street parking, I would encourage everyone to come by public transport. (Hey, it’s New York City!) Here is a link for travel directions. If you are coming by tram, the station is at Second Avenue and 60th Street. You will need to pay with a Metrocard ($2.75). When you arrive on the island, take red bus (free) to the second stop and walk forward about 50 yards to the library. If coming by subway, take the F train from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. Then the red bus to the first stop and walk 50 yards to the library. If you follow the project online or have been in touch directly, please come up and introduce yourself. I will be in the building by 5.00, I hope, and will have time to chat once everything is set up. Hope to see you there.
I noticed today that the willardsuitcases.com site is acting up a bit. All of the information below the photograph on the splash page seems to have disappeared. Fortunately everything else seems to be working, including access to the cases page. I have a call in to Steve Fox who did a beautiful job designing the site, and I hope we can get it cleared up soon.
Yesterday Peg noticed some of Margaret D’s handiwork with a needle. And here is one of those needles, still in place where she last used it. I have no idea what this process is called, but it looks quite intricate.
The annual public tour of Willard is on for Saturday the 16th of May. It is a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Children’s Center. Here is a link to their Facebook page. I would advise getting there very early, as this is a wildly popular event. Tours are run at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm. And if you have never experienced a central New York State chicken bbq, I would advise you to get some tickets for it. Also that day, a memorial service will be held at the cemetery across the street honoring Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient dug many of the graves. That event takes place at 11.00 am and should be interesting.
I will be there for much of the day, and would be most happy if those of you who follow this project would come up and say hello. If former Willard employee Peggy Ellsworth is in charge at the morgue again this year, I will probably hang out with her much of the time.
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.
We have been learning quite a bit about Margaret’s life before she came to Willard. She worked at Herman M. Biggs Memorial Hospital in Ithaca as a nurse, and at some point had some sort of surgery. There were a large number of get well cards in the boxes we worked on yesterday, many of which had lovely personal notes on the inside. It was clear that she was very well liked by her friends and co-workers.
As I have mentioned before, Margaret came to Willard with almost everything she had accumulated up to that point in her life. Yesterday we came across her 1939 and 1940 1040A forms and quite a few photographs. Inside of a photo envelope labeled “Easter Greetings” was a picture of the car that I mentioned in this post.
In the same envelope was a photograph of the hospital in Ithaca where she once worked. / Peggy Ross was especially helpful yesterday, and I wanted to thank her again for all her hard work on the project. Her organizational skills are only outweighed by her cheerful spirit, which when shooting in a darkish and chilly storage facility is very much welcomed.
There has been quite a bit of attention to the project lately and with many new folks coming to this site, I wanted to remind everyone that I am continually uploading earlier shoots to the willardsuitcases.com site. Check it out if you haven’t been there lately, and thanks for following.
Margaret D arrived at Willard with almost her entire household as well as her car. Which in this case was a Dodge Brothers Coupe that she bought new in 1934. Here is what Hemmings has to say about it. An amazing automobile.
This is the first page of the notebook where she kept track of trips that she took in it. I am quite familiar with the first legs of the journey, having grown up in Western Pennsylvania. Especially the Salamanca, NY to Bradford, PA leg. And my great friend and college roommate Gail grew up in Ridgeway, where I have spent quite a bit of time.
I am just blown away when I think about the stories contained in these suitcases. Thanks for following along with me.
Yesterday we had a very productive day shooting more of Margaret D’s possessions. Every once in a while, something completely unexpected pops up. Among the many photographs in Margaret’s collection was this picture postcard. It was so unlike everything else that she had that it was a bit of a shock. There was no information on the back, but I thought I immediately knew the identity of the woman in the bathing suit. Peg wasn’t so sure. So I am opening it up for all of you to help us figure out who this is. In a few days, I will post my guess, along with more images from the shoot. As I mentioned before, Margaret came to Willard with almost an entire household. It will take us months to get through it all, but is a remarkable look into her life.
Wow, my sister Karen nailed it. Ann Miller. Look in the comments to see the other responses. Here is the original that she tracked down on the web.
Thanks Sis! And I owe Peggy a beer. My money was on Bess Myerson.
On Tuesday, Peg and I started in on Margaret D’s cases. By all accounts she came to Willard with her entire household, which included a car. There is so much of hers in the collection that we literally did not know where or how to start. The first shot we took is of this remnant of a shipping label, and it seemed as good a place as any to begin. She came to Willard from the Mount Morris TB Hospital, but I haven’t yet seen anything with a date on it to know for sure when she arrived.
It will take us weeks to get through her things, but now that we have started, I feel excited to proceed. I will continue to post about her as we move ahead.
My son Peter sent me a link to an interesting article in Sunday’s Washington Post. It is about a woman who struggles with a lot of the same issues that many Willard patients must have experienced. Here is the link.