Art Sunday: Abandoned Suit Cases by Jon Crispin

Thelma's suitcase.
Thelma's Suitcase
Floyd's empty suitcase.
Floyd's empty suit case

Jon Crispin is a photographer and document-er. An article on his project on the Collector's Weekly website started like this:
"If you were committed to a psychiatric institution, unsure if you’d ever return to the life you knew before, what would you take with you? That sobering question hovers like an apparition over each of the Willard Asylum suitcases. From the 1910s through the 1960s, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away, with nobody to claim them. Upon the center’s closure in 1995, employees found hundreds of these time capsules stored in a locked attic. Working with the New York State Museum, former Willard staffers were able to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection. 
Photographer Jon Crispin has long been drawn to the ghostly remains of abandoned psychiatric institutions. After learning of the Willard suitcases, Crispin sought the museum’s permission to document each case and its contents. In 2011, Crispin completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund the first phase of the project, which he recently finished.
Every life besides my own seems so interesting and complex and exciting. These suit cases were filled with people lives. They carried treasured possessions and memories. Practically all the meaning of these objects are lost to us, but somewhere I am able to find an inkling of understanding. This project is moving in that it reminds us of how far we've come since the past in terms of acceptance of those with mental disorders, and knowing that these objects were people's worlds. Each suitcase presents the story of their lives. Some are grand tales and some are empty. There is a story there, nonetheless.
We should all remember that each of us carry our own suit case. We fill it with memories, some painful, some joyful. You just can't understand a person until you know they are carrying around with them.


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