As I research and study my own family history, I become more selective about the objects that I keep and the ones that I throw away. I want to, as much as possible, minimize the number of objects that I store and at the same time, recognize the need for order and for meaning.
Researching my family’s British Home Children causes me to wonder about the objects that might have been found in their wee boxes or suitcases. More than likely John Moors, at the age of 13, had his own wooden trunk, with his name printed onto it. It is absolutely possible that someone in Canada owns that trunk, with no knowledge of the little boy who stored his only precious and personal possessions there.
Also, my great auntie Alice was known to have some form of mental illness, as verified by my auntie Ruth’s interviews and by the fact that she is found in San Bernardino’s Patton State Hospital on the 1930 census prior to her death. She is buried with her dear mother, sister and brother-in-law in San Diego, no spouse and no children.
When I saw the Willard Asylum Suitcases, I wondered about John’s objects…and Alice’s. I also thought about the types of objects that people treasure at different times of their lives. I used to spend time visiting seniors who had been placed in Edith Cavell Care Center (used-to-be-called-nursing home) back in the 70s. I remember the types of objects that each resident had displayed on their side tables and the photographs that hung on their walls.
Jon Crispin of Albany, New York, is doing wonderful work.
The beautiful images of the cases and the objects within them are archived here.