This case belongs to Margaret D, and she clearly liked beautiful underthings. It is difficult to describe just how wonderful the fabric in these garments felt to the touch.
Margaret was a nurse before she came to Willard, and she also brought along a massive collection of highly starched nurses uniforms.
There had to have been at least 50 of these uniforms, and they were all folded nicely.
I first met Zoë Crossland shortly after she backed the first suitcases Kickstarter campaign. She is an anthropology professor at Columbia University and has invited me on two different occasions to speak to her department about the suitcases. Both visits were amazing, and I learned so much about the project from hearing what the faculty and staff had to say. Over a year ago we started a dialogue about the project with hopes of getting it published. Six months ago the Journal of Contemporary Archeology agreed to do so, and the online version was released late last week. Here is a link to see a pdf of the article. Scroll down to “Download Media” and click on the little icon next to “PDF”. I am so proud to be a part of this as I think Zoë did a fantastic job of connecting my photographs with her interests as an archeologist/anthropologist. There will be a print version available soon which can be ordered through the JCA.
Thanks for following. I have been getting quite a few new subscribers to this site, so as a reminder, you can check out The Willard Suitcases site here.
I just got word that the governor of New York State has signed Senate Bill S840A. Here is the summary of the bill; “(Senate Bill S840A ) relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries; directs the release of the name, birthdate and date of death of certain patients 50 years after the date of death”. I am not totally clear about what “certain patients” means, and to whom this information may be released, but this is certainly good news. Here is a link to two earlier posts I did about the cemetery and the whole issue of names. Click on Coleen Spellecy’s and Lin Stuhler’s links to read about the two people who did the most to get this bill through the legislature. And thanks to Joe Robach for being persistent in getting the bill passed and signed into law.
The issue of not being allowed to name the owners of the suitcases has always bothered me. I have been expressly told by both the New York State Museum and the New York Office of Mental Health that due to state law, I am forbidden to use the surnames of the patients when I publish the photographs, even though some of those names have already been mentioned in local newspapers and in other sources. I feel that not using surnames continues to dehumanize the folks who were already stigmatized just by being patients at Willard. Due to this new law, it might be possible, in some instances, to begin using full names. All in all, this is a pretty exciting development.
Thanks for following and check out the suitcases site to see the latest.
Even though my summer has been scattered location-wise, I have been able to work regularly on editing the suitcases, and have been able to upload a good number of them to the Willard Suitcases site. Click on “The Cases” to see the latest. Theresa F was admitted to Willard on 3 April 1935.
It might be a good time to mention a couple of upcoming events where I will be talking about the project. In early October I will be traveling to Galveston to speak at NAMIFEST 2016. NAMI is a national organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families dealing with issues of mental illness. I’ll be speaking at the dinner event on Friday (the 7th). If you have been following the project and live in the Gulf Coast area, please think about attending.
The following week, I will be speaking at a very interesting event in Raleigh, NC. The “Lives on the Hill” project is being organized by the North Carolina Health News folks, and will be highlighting the shuttered Dix Hospital property in downtown Raleigh. I will be speaking at the Sunday (the 16th) event taking place at the Student Center on the NC State Campus. There will also be an exhibit of the photographs up for the entire month of October. I’ll update about the location once those details are finalized.
It is very exciting to be involved in both of these events, and I am really looking forward to being a part of them.
The first few days I was in Nepal I had time in the mornings to edit some suitcase photographs. Upload speeds were really slow, so I didn’t get to add them to the site until today. You might want to check willardsuitcases.com to see some new ones. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Cases” page to see the latest additions.
Ida’s suitcase was mostly empty except for a comb, some wrapping paper, and a label. I really like this photograph.
Harry M’s case wasn’t technically a suitcase, but it contained some interesting things.
I’m not sure what the wooden object on the left is, but the Latimer White Petroleum Jelly label is quite nice. And the Prell shampoo bottle is classic. The label had fallen off, but it has the “Rinse, Lather, Repeat” admonition that got consumers to use twice as much as they probably needed.
I have been editing and uploading more of the suitcases, and you can see the latest here. Just click on “The Cases” at the top of the page. Thanks for following.
L. W.’s case was largely empty save for this purple piece of rope and a half-smoked cigar. It stikes me as a pretty good metaphor for a life interrupted. You can check out the other photographs on the suitcases site. Thanks for following, and I wish you all a lovely weekend.
I mentioned earlier this week that I was hoping to get Charles F’s photographs uploaded by the end of the week, and here is a sample. To see the rest of the collection, please go to the Willard Suitcases site.
From the little I know about Charles, he came to Willard somewhat later in his life. I have no way of knowing if the portrait in the above photograph is he, or someone near to him, but whenever I think about his life, this image comes to mind.
The tassels on his tallit are especially evocative to me.
I believe that this is the publisher of some of his books. I did a search for it but came up empty. Any help would be welcome.
His starched collars were still in quite good condition.
I have no way of knowing if he was in the military, but I would guess that this canteen was army surplus.
Here is a close up of his naturalization papers, which date to October of 1896.
Many of the suitcases in the collection contain scraps of paper with hand-written notes on them. I find that these can be especially interesting.
One of Charles’ cases had this selection tools (and a razor).
Please check out the rest of my photographs of Charles’ possessions on the suitcases site, and thanks for following.
I am attempting to make a push to upload as many new cases as I can over the next few months.
George C’s case is really blue! It was empty save for a label. You can see the other photos at the willardsuitcases.com site. I am uploading the cases chronologically, and this is the beginning of a run of empty cases. I ran the second kickstarted appeal specifically to document the entire collection, and even the empty ones are important to me. (By the way, thanks to Peggy Ross for convincing me how important it was to photograph every case. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it without her help and support.)
One case stands out in this sequence though, especially as it was anything but empty. Charles F’s possessions were amazing. It will take me days to go through it all, but I hope to have it up by the end of next week. Above is his certificate of naturalization. On the left you can see the list of clothing that came with him to Willard. More soon.
Thanks for following.
Very shortly after the first Willard Suitcases kickstarter went up I received an email from Jessica Helfand expressing her interest in the project. She soon invited me down to New Haven to speak to her Yale freshman seminar class, “Studies in Visual Biography”. Here is a post I did just after that first visit. I have subsequently been to her class on several other occasions and it is always very stimulating and fun.
As well as teaching at Yale, Jessica and her late husband Bill Drenttel created Design Observer, which is a fantastic website devoted to creativity and design. That description doesn’t do it justice though, as it is so much more than that. It is really worth checking out on a regular basis. In addition to the site, Design Observer recently started publishing a quarterly magazine. The second issue is just out, and they included a huge spread on the suitcases. I am just so honored to be a part of the issue, and it looks great. Here is a link to purchase it, and I would really recommend all of you interested in the project to do so. It includes many suitcase photographs that haven’t been published before. Special thanks go to Eugenia Bell, who did a great job selecting the images, and making sure it all came together. She was a joy to work with.
As we were saying goodbye after that first class at Yale, Jessica reached out, hugged me and said “We’re friends now!” It was a most touching gesture and I have rarely felt so quickly welcomed into someone’s life. She has been a massive supporter of the project who has helped me in so many ways, and I am very fortunate to be her friend.
Virginia’s case is pretty great. I can’t quite make out the date of her admittance, but it is sometime in the early 1950’s. It is interesting that these were the only two books she brought with her to Willard.
Good news about the willardsuitcases.com site. Steve Fox was able to troubleshoot the problem, and it is back up and looking good. I just added Virginia’s case, so you might want to check it out.
I am looking forward to seeing some of you in New York next week.