Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Patient Dress / Part 1

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

The Willard Suitcase Project

It wasn’t just the amazing designs; the precision of the embroidery knocked us out.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

There were a good number of cats on the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This one seems to be hovering over a plant.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Not sure what is going oh above, but the orange is such a beautiful color.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This looks to me like a cat but what is it doing?  Any thoughts?

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

I love how this person’s hair is rendered.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The orange flower in her hair is lovely.

The Willard Suitcase Project

These little flowers are so delicate.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The watch and ring on this figure are such a nice touch.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

Ovid / Willard Cemetery / NAMI Waco

I had a great meeting at the Edith B. Ford Library in Ovid, NY to talk about the possibility of working on an oral history project with former Willard employees.  Peter Carroll and I drove up from Ithaca this morning and met with Shannon O’Connor and Monica Kelly who both are doing amazing things at the library.  Monica is building an archive of Willard materials, and if anyone who reads this has any records or photographs related to the asylum, you should really contact her.

20170223002wp

Afterwards Pete and I drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Gilbert Road.

20170223001wp

Recently, a local group raised funds and erected a monument to Willard folks who died at the institution and are buried at Holy Cross.  I am not exactly sure what the problem is, but some people have objected to it, and so the monument has been covered up since just after it was unveiled.  The issue of naming former patients and staff continues to come up, and is still a problem on many levels.  I’ll be eager to find out what really happened here.

20170223004wp

After leaving Holy Cross, we drove over to the Willard Cemetery which is down the road and across the street from the asylum.  This is such an indescribably moving place for me. It was a really beautiful late Winter day and the idea that 5,776 former patients are buried here in unmarked graves always touches me deeply.

20170223005s

The site is very well looked after, and the area around some of the few remaining numbered cast iron markers has recently been cleared of brush.

20170223007s

And it is always nice to see the monument to Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient, dug by hand over 1500 of the graves.

I found out today that I have been invited to Waco, Texas to be the keynote speaker at the annual NAMI Waco dinner and gala.  The event is the evening of Thursday, 18th May and if you live anywhere nearby, I would love to meet you.

Willard Suitcases / Issac and Alice

20140204152wp

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.

20140204198wp

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.

Willard Suitcases / More Labels / Peg

Willard Suitcases

I am just about finished up editing the December 2013 shoots.

Willard Suitcases

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.)

Willard Suitcases

Walter arrived in February of 1945.  Nelson Rockford Socks are still available.

Willard Suitcases

Mary Agnes’ case just had this little metal clasp, a shoelace, a hairpin, and a label.

Willard Suitcases

And a pair of “leather-like” boots.

Willard Suitcases

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!

Willard Suitcases

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.

Willard Suitcases / December 2013

 

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.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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.)

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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!

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Charles and his small leather grip arrived from the Binghamton State Hospital.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Richard’s case was clearly a traveling salesman’s and was completely empty.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Here is a detail.  The Zanol Company was based in Cincinnati.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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.

Willard Suitcases / Vintage News

Willard Suitcases Project
Case Irma Mei

©2013 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Vintage News ran a nice little interview about the suitcases on their site.  You can check it out here.

Thanks Alex!

Willard Suitcases / Labels / Books

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

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.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

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.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

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.

Willard Suitcases Project

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.

20161130012wp

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 jon@willardsuitcases.com.  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.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / Journal of Contemporary Archeology

Willard Suitcases
Margaret D
©2015 Jon Crispin

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.

Willard Suitcases
Margaret D
©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret was a nurse before she came to Willard, and she also brought along a massive collection of highly starched nurses uniforms.

Willard Suitcases
Margaret D
©2015 Jon Crispin

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.

Willard Suitcases / Names

9-9-10 03-23+ PM wp

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.

Willard Suitcases Project  ©2013 Jon Crispin All Rights Reserved

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.

Willard Suitcases / Theresa F / Events

Willard Suitcases Project 
©2013 Jon Crispin
All Rights Reserved

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.

%d bloggers like this: