Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 12 March 2015

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

I have just uploaded another one hundred or so photographs to Margaret’s page.  Check it out here.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

There are some really interesting items here.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

My breath was a bit taken away when I opened the LaLure box and saw the beautiful cutlery inside.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

I love this tiny Statue of Liberty, which was one of several that we came across during our work on the suitcases.

Lots more of Margaret to come.  Thanks for following.  Tell your friends!

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 2 March 2015

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I just uploaded another batch of photos to Margaret’s page.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (Make sure you click on the “view all” button; the default view is 25 per page.)

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I think this little Devon Violets vase is beautiful.

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This lone pill was wrapped in the paper on which it is placed.  It is difficult to read the pencil writing but it looks like amid(something) barbital.

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Having seen other photographs of her, I am quite certain that it is Margaret in these shots.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 17 February 2015

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Quite a few of the Willard residents brought small carved dogs with them.  This looks like a little Skye Terrier.  The thread collar is quite touching.

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The doggie theme is repeated here.  I believe that this is a strong thread wrapped around this paper that is used for bead work.

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There were thousands of these small (glass?) beads.

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I often tried to document Peg’s work and the care we took in putting everything back the way we found it.  These beads were difficult to wrangle, but I am pretty sure we got them all back in the bag.

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This photo really gets to me for some reason.  Check the comments for a description of this process as my pal Dhyan will probably chime in.  She has been following the project since early days, and I really appreciate her knowledge of anything to do with fabric and yarn.  Thanks Dhyan!

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Here’s some string wedged into a hair comb.  So many questions.

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I think we decided this is a post card of the well known dancer Ann Miller.  (Peg’s mom helped identify her if I remember correctly.)  I was pretty sure it was Bess Myerson.

I have started using the date of shooting in the title of these Margaret posts as it is the only way to differentiate the various posts from one another.  Check out the full uploads of Margaret’s things here.  There is a LOT more of her to come.

Willard Suitcases / Beginning Margaret D

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I have finished editing everything we shot in 2014 and have finally moved on to 2015.  Margaret D came to Willard with pretty much her entire household, including her car.  I have posted about her before, including this link which talks a bit about her life before Willard.

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She was a nurse who lived in the Ithaca area, and came to the institution with a number of highly starched uniforms and hats.

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Peg and I shot this trunk in February of 2014 and we finished photographing all of her possessions 4 months later.  Quite a collection.

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I will continue to post updates here as I work my way through all of Margaret’s things.

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It is exciting to think about completing the editing process on the project.  Once my schedule opens up I’ll be able to really push exhibits and publication.  Thanks for following, and to those of you who have been in direct contact I really appreciate the feedback.

Willard Suitcases / Michael D’A

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It was clear to us when we were setting up Michael’s shot that the wrapping contained crutches.

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They were in remarkable shape for being so old.

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Michael came to Willard from Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island, but unfortunately we don’t have a date for his admittance.

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As I was editing the photographs this morning, I couldn’t remember precisely why I took the closeup shot below.

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As I looked closely the faint marks on the crutch stood out.  I wonder if he was making them in order to count days at Ward’s Island before he came to Willard.

You can see the latest here.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A #3

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It took a while, but I finally finished editing Joseph’s two trunks.  Peg and I worked on them on two different days, three weeks apart and the photos did not end up in a logical sequence.  It took me a while to organize them for the suitcases site.

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Setting up and shooting cases containing lots of clothes presented challenges.  We always strove to make the arrangements look natural, but I in particular dreaded the days where all we had to work with was clothing.

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Another shout out to Peggy Ross here.  The museum had individually conserved each item and assigned it a unique catalogue number.  In instances of larger collections like Joseph’s, the items were stored not in the cases themselves, but in archival museum boxes.  Peg was instrumental in helping with the setup by unwrapping each piece and making notes about the box from which the items came, then helping me lay them out.

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I would then make a number of wide shots, and finally move in for the details.  Once the arrangement was in place, I rarely if ever moved the objects around.  I’m not sure why, but it was important to me to maintain the integrity of the original setup.  Once I finished shooting, Peg would rewrap each item in the original conservation material and return it back into the museum storage boxes.  In retrospect it is not surprising that it took  us over five years to shoot all the cases, and that it is taking me another two years to edit everything.  I am making great progress though.

I would also mention that the clothing photographs are now among my favorites.

Thanks for following.  If you want to see all of the photos from Joseph’s cases, click this link.  Don’t forget to click on the “view all” button.  The default setting only shows the first 25 images.

 

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A’s Wife

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Joseph had two trunks in the collection and that one of them contained his wife’s clothes.

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An aspect of this project that I find most interesting is to do with questions that arise from looking at the possessions of the patients.  We know from yesterday’s post that Joseph’s trunks arrived more than a year after he was admitted.  The fact that so much of his wife’s clothing was sent to him makes me wonder if she was alive for part of that year, or if she had died before August of 1945 when he was admitted.  Did her death have something to do with his troubles?  Who sent the trunks to Willard over a year after he became a patient?

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There are, of course, answers to most of these questions.  They are in the patient records that are housed in the New York State Archives.  Due to state law and the policies of the State Office of Mental Health, almost no one (including the descendants of Willard patients) has access to these documents.

Early on in the project, I came to realize that my photographs could encourage viewers to think about the residents of Willard in a manner that went beyond their diagnoses.  In most ways, the official records are not relevant to my feelings about the 400+ people whose cases are in the collection.  As I continue to edit the images, my connection to the patients and staff at Willard continues to grow.

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Peg Ross and I came across numerous small doggies as we were shooting the suitcases.  This one is particularly cute.

I’ll have more to post tomorrow.  Cheers all.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A

This week I have begun editing Joseph A’s two trunks.  I expect it will take quite a while to get through all the photographs, as one trunk contains a ton of his clothing and the other is full of his wife’s possessions. I hope to post daily as I work through the collection.

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I don’t believe I have posted an inventory before.  This one appears to have been put together by Willard employee M. McCarry; you can see her name on the bottom right.  Joseph was admitted in August of 1945, but it seems his trunks did not arrive at Willard until April of 1946.  Some of the annotations are interesting, especially the notes that indicate that some of the clothing was with him on the ward.

I won’t be uploading the entire collection for several days, but will hope to post a few photos from it daily.  Thanks for following.

NAMI Waco Talk

Posted in Jon Crispin, Mental Health, mental illness, Uncategorized, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 18/05/2017

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I had the chance to walk around Waco a bit this morning before I started working on tonight’s talk.

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There was a public ceremony today in the park across from my hotel memorializing fallen police officers.  I am always drawn to a crowd (which were behind me when I took this photo).

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I learned that Dr Pepper was invented in Waco, and the amazing Cynthia Cunningham from NAMI Waco gave me a bag with some gifts, including these two bottles of Dr Pepper (made with real cane sugar!).  I am drinking one now and it is wonderful.

 My talk tonight went pretty well; I was nervous at first, but seemed to do ok.  I’d give myself a B, but I am still learning.  Lots of folks came up to me afterwards and were so nice and complimentary.  If you are looking to do a bit of good in this world, send NAMI Waco some money through their site, or if you live in an area with a local NAMI group, think about volunteering.  They are doing amazing and important work.  /  I also met some great folks from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.  Coby Chase was familiar with the suitcases project and drove up from Austin where he works lobbying the state on mental health issues. He mentioned their site okaytosay.org which is really interesting and inspiring.  So much of the work NAMI, Meadows, and like minded organizations do is related to reducing the stigma of mental illness.  I am so grateful to Cynthia for connecting the suitcases to her work, and for giving me the chance to meet so many wonderful people who work so hard to improve the lives of families who struggle with mental health issues .

That’s it for tonight.  Back home tomorrow.  Thanks, as usual, for following.

Willard Suitcases / Chapin House / NAMI Waco

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I took this photo in the early 1980s at the very beginning of my connection with Willard.  It is still one of my favorites from the “Silent Voices” project.

Here are a few shots from my recent uploads to the suitcases site.

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I’m not exactly sure what the white fabric object is in Kenneth Q’s case, but it is interesting.  The orange toothbursh is kind of nice.

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Elizabeth C’s dress is so beautiful.

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The cotton fabric is soft and wonderful.

Willard Suitcases

There are 3 different places on the above photograph where I had to obscure Amelia’s surname, and it still makes me sad every time I have to do so.  The Office of Mental Health pr guy told me a few years ago that it was necessary due to the stigma of mental illness.  It is precisely that attitude that prolongs that stigma; the Willard patients deserve to be recognized as being more than just patients at a New York State asylum.

On Wednesday, I fly to Texas to present the suitcases project at a dinner sponsored by NAMI Waco.  Here is a link to the event.  If you are in the area, it would be great to see you and make a connection.

Thanks for following.

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