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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Story in a Suitcase

I follow the tweets of author Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), who also happens to be the daughter of poet Floyd Skloot. Today she linked to an article from Collectors Weekly blog, about the suitcases left behind when residents of insane asylums die.

Writer Hunter Oatman-Stanford interviewed photographer Jon Crispin, who documented and curated an exhibition based on the haunting contents of these suitcases.

There are stories in every item, not just the ones in the article, but in every item surrounding you now. This plastic bluebird my husband put in my Christmas stocking the first year of our marriage, the first time in his life he had any need to get or give a stocking, and he wasn't sure what was supposed to be in a stocking. This fossil of a fish I bought at the Orange County Fair and my son coveted and even though I usually give my kids what they want, I just couldn't hand this over, and ended up getting him one of his own. This antique Japanese sword hilt my friend's father gave me right out of his private collection because I was still friends with his daughter despite her scandalous (to him and to her friends) divorce. This stone carving my husband and I bought in Burma, a carving I didn't really like then and tried to talk my husband out of purchasing, but that I have since moved from his bookshelf to my desk and my husband hasn't said a word about my appropriation. This ammonite that belonged to my son and I coveted and he gave me, even though I wouldn't give him the fossil fish. This chunky silver clock I love but that goes through batteries so fast that I just stopped replacing them, and it's been 1:01 and 21 seconds for years.

Every item a story, a lot of stories. Spooky, yes. Comforting, maybe. And which of these would I take with me if I was on my way to a mental institution? And what would you carry?


Erin said...

I've been writing poems based on these suitcases for the last two years. Thanks for this link, I hadn't heard that there was a new photographer working with them!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Erin, that's so interesting. How did you come to know about them?