Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Things We Leave Behind, Part 2

In August of last year I wrote a post titled The Things We Leave Behind in which I talked about the legacies, both good (books, letters, photographs) and bad (unexploded ordnance) by which future generations will remember us. It was one of my favorite posts, because it appealed to my sense of history and my love of writing.

I thought about this subject again last week when I ran across this fascinating article by David Rosenberg in Slate Magazine: Recovered Suitcases from an Insane Asylum. The article documents a project by photographer Jon Crispin to document the contents of suitcases left behind by inmates at the Willard Asylum for the Insane in Ovid, New York. When the asylum was converted to a prison in the mid-90's, an employee found a large collection of old suitcases dating from the 1920's to the 1660's in an attic. Because the inmates to whom they belonged were long dead and most families didn't want the items back, the suitcases were displayed in an exhibition in the New York State Museum, where they were seen by Jon Crispin ... who decided that the old suitcases and their contents could tell fascinating stories, and embarked on his project to document them in photographs. Here are a few samples ... what do you think are the stories behind them?

Who wrote the notes? What are the pills for?

A baseball fan with an interest in drinking glasses, seeds, and newspaper clippings about European royalty? What led this person to reside in an insane asylum?

An alarm clock, a whisk broom, shoe cream, and an elementary school workbook ... why did someone decide to pack this odd collection for his life in the asylum?

For many people, military service was the defining experience of their lives ... did this person pack his uniform for the memories, or did a family member or friend pack it for him?

You can read more about the Willard Suitcase photographs and the stories they tell in Jon Crispin's blog dedicated to the project.

What are the things that you have stored in boxes or old suitcases in your attic? What are the stories they might tell about you ... about the kind of person you were, what you liked and didn't like, what your hobbies and interests were?

Perhaps nowadays our stories are told more accurately by the contents of our browser histories than those of our old suitcases ... but they won't photograph nearly as well.

Have a good day. What's in your attic?

More thoughts on Thursday.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Bilbo, definitely food for thought! Our browser histories, and our old posts from old MSN Groups might be today's equivalent.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Mine is mostly in the attic at my parents' place. One day I guess I'll go through and wonder "what is this?" or "where did this come from?" The loss of continuity can be a problem.

I hope there will be happy memories recovered. Somewhere's there's my old baseball glove, maybe.

The Bastard King of England said...

I'm afraid that a large component of my "left behind" stuff will be things that I had no place for but thought I should keep, so ten years later I'm going, "Now what in the hell is this?" Bilbo, you gave me a thought: I'd better make a memory bin to save the good stuff.