The Willard Suitcases

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

One of my favorite things about reading is when I learn and discover about new things I have never heard of before. A perfect example of this was when I read a historical fiction novel by Ellen Marie Wiseman. In What She Left Behind, which I just reviewed and is on my last blog post, one of the biggest things that the story focused on were suitcases left behind by patients in an insane asylum. It turns out that while the book was completely fictional, the background story behind the suitcases were based on something real.

The Willard Suitcases were documented to showcase the suitcases left behind by patients in the Willard Psychiatric Center in New York. When the asylum closed in 1995, an employee who worked at Willard was given permission to look at the abandoned building to see what could be salvaged. When he opened the door to an attic, he was surprised to see over 400 suitcases. 
A museum in New York acquired these suitcases to keep for preservation and also to show the public through works in literature and photography. Jon Crispin, a photographer, started a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded, so he can begin the project. Now looking at these photos he took, one can take a small peek at the patients that owned them, and their complex lives.

While I was looking at these, I thought a lot about myself and wondered a lot to be honest. If somebody were to open my "suitcase" or enter my room. What would they find, and how would they create my story from these belongings? Strictly looking at what I owned in my room, I think they'd see and describe me as a woman who loved books, who read them and kept them everywhere. A woman who had a knack for soft and light decor, suggesting that she valued solitude and peace in her room. A woman who liked to keep memories in random keepsakes and photos, a woman with notebooks and journals full of to-do lists, poetry, and stories. I would LOVE you to tell me how you think others would describe you as a person if they only saw your belongings and your room. 

For more information, check out these websites. 


  1. Hi, I just found your blog and this is a really interesting post!

    I'd say if someone was to walk into my room I'd say they'd get a decent enough picture of me. They'd know that I loved to read and had a pretty broad taste. They'd also see that I have some vinyl and a record player and could get a decent enough idea of my musical taste. I know all of that seems pretty superficial but I think the things in my room, or "suitcase" as you put it, say a lot about me. Obviously you can't understand everything about a person by looking at there belongings, but with me I think you could make a pretty good guess.


    1. Thanks for visiting, Killian!! Yeah, there's not a lot to figure out with just material things we own, but it gives a good clue. Vinyls and a record player sound to me like a great clue! :)