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The Willard Suitcases
November 8, 2012 9:14 PM   Subscribe

After the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane (later the Willard Psychiatric Center) closed in 1995, the New York State Museum received an unusual donation: 427 suitcases, dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, which had belonged to patients who died while institutionalized. Photographer Jon Crispin has undertaken a project to photograph their contents.

Each suitcase tells the (often heartbreaking) story of its owner, be they a black World War II veteran from Brooklyn, a brilliant Ukrainian immigrant whose paintings once adorned Willard's walls, a nurse who brought medical supplies with her, a zither-player, or a craftswoman who kept a souvenir from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. There's plenty more to explore at Crispin's blog.
posted by alexoscar (17 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by orange swan at 9:18 PM on November 8, 2012


This is a different main article published some years after that one, with interesting supporting links. Seems like a bit more than a double.

Anyway, I'm glad to have read about this, even if it is probably going to give me nightmares about being permanently trapped in some sort of institution.
posted by brennen at 9:22 PM on November 8, 2012


As soon as I read this I thought, have I seen this already? Or am I ...
posted by Splunge at 9:22 PM on November 8, 2012


Don't think so, I think it's a new set of photographs and treatment of the subject.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:23 PM on November 8, 2012


This is the saddest thing, somehow.
posted by verbyournouns at 9:33 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


This makes me laugh and hurts my heart all at once. I hate how people are abandoned by their families, but I love how they are embraced by the staff even so.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:35 PM on November 8, 2012


This is so touching yet almost uncomfortably intimate.

Thank you for this. Not only the incredible post, but the incredible story as well.
posted by Sphinx at 10:43 PM on November 8, 2012


Fascinating and, yes, heartbreaking -- at least, oddly moving -- in a way. The earlier post was before my time, so thanks for this one.
posted by trip and a half at 10:45 PM on November 8, 2012


Looks like at least some of this work will be part of an exhibit (scroll down for the announcement) at the Exploratorium in San Francisco when they open in their new space next year. Looking forward to that!
posted by trip and a half at 11:16 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The remnants of broken lives, photographed. Frozen memorials.
posted by Goofyy at 12:11 AM on November 9, 2012


These are really great. I like them. But I swear I deal with this all the time whenever I'm late for my flight and going through airport security.

It's what usually happens.

I'm in a hurry, and ahead of me there are 427 suitcases belonging to the chronically insane.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I knew that Crispin's blog would be fascinating and compulsive and upsetting but Anna Gordon's shoes had me closing the tab.

Will go back when I can sob in private, thanks alexoscar.
posted by humph at 3:14 AM on November 9, 2012


Browsing through the blog is a bit addictive.....
Thanks for the post!
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 AM on November 9, 2012


Incredible collection, but why does everyone seem to have at least one miniature animal in their cases?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:44 AM on November 9, 2012


Ok, I am about to look up “catarrh Really?

Interesting photographs but the examinations are kind of cursory.
posted by arcticseal at 5:21 AM on November 9, 2012


I love this one.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, I am about to look up “catarrh" Really?

Interesting photographs but the examinations are kind of cursory.


I do wish he'd put a little more depth into the posts. I would love to have known what some of the notes said, or at least the text on the smaller bottles and things that were too small to read.
posted by Et3rnalCynic at 12:25 PM on November 9, 2012


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