This is Arlene. That title isn’t a joke. A couple of years ago my mother found my kindergarten grade card and sent it to me. I did okay on the less physical elements of the curriculum, but the things requiring coordination? Not so much.
So imagine my surprise (distress, concern, paranoia) when I realized that in order to mount our next exhibit, somebody was actually going to have to do the work! Mariecris was busily writing captions and orienting and resizing scans for printout, and I’d spent most of the morning printing out photo scans, but then the photo printer ran out of ink and, well, I had those 50 or so prints sitting in front of me that needed some of the white around the edges removed for display. And the next step was trimming. So there I was, facing a cutting mat, a gridded see-through ruler, and an exacto knife.
This is a visual that used to strike fear into my mother’s (and sister’s and brother’s and father’s) heart. I think my whole family was thrilled to see me go into what they perceived as a largely non-physical profession. Okay, so that may be a sign of ignorance of what archivists actually do since obviously they aren’t aware of the whole 50 lb box/ladders/shelves above head-height thing, but I think they felt secure that I wouldn’t really have a need to be working around extremely sharp implements. Well, they were wrong, but barring some horrific move on my part that might necessitate a call to the next-of-kin, I’ll try not to disabuse them of the notion.
So back to the whole trimming exhibit photos thing. The reason this task is more than a little dangerous for me is because it’s also tedious. Trim edge, turn photo, trim next edge, turn photo, well, you get the idea. If you get bored, you tend to stop paying attention. Correction: I get bored, I tend to stop paying attention. However, I have one giant plus in the keeping awake and careful column: the pictures are cool. Very, very interesting. Nicole and Mariecris did most of the selection and they both have a pretty good eye for what works visually in a photographs exhibit.
Are you wondering yet what the exhibit topic might be? I’ll tell you anyway. I (and a few others of my archival brethren) have a tender spot in our hearts for “interior shots.” Photographs taken indoors. Images that show how people lived, how they decorated, how they dressed when they were at home. But not just at home, when at work, out for a night on the town, at church. These types of images sometimes indicate the more mundane moments of life, when people aren’t always posing for the camera, but living real life, the things in life that often aren’t documented quite as carefully. So our exhibit theme is Alaskans Indoors. The image that prompted this all is from the Sally Irene Lindsay photographs and it dates from sometime in between 1899 and 1907.
There’s a few reasons this image caught my attention. First, it is an interior image at a time when interior images weren’t very common. Perhaps it was the lack of lighting equipment that made it relatively difficult for photographers to get well-exposed images indoors. Second, it’s a very casual image at a time when many surviving images fall more into the portrait classification. The woman on the left is napping! Third, this is also the interior of a hotel in the town of Porcupine, Alaska, a town that’s basically not there anymore. Though for the time, the hotel seems very well equipped with the domestic comforts of life. Porcupine, though a mining town, wasn’t exactly on the major trade routes. And the fourth piece of information that came with the photograph is that the woman on the left–the one who is napping?–that’s Dr. Fraser. Dr. Fraser of Pleasant Camp, British Columbia, which was about 12 miles away from Porcupine, according to whomever identified the women in the image. I don’t know how many women doctors were practicing in northern British Columbia around 1900, and I’m not even sure it’s not some sort of a joke on the part of the captioner, but you can see why this image caught my attention and tends to be a particular favorite of ours.
Well, this is one that’s in the batch of scans that Mariecris is still formatting, so I haven’t had a chance to take a knife to the edges of it yet. But it’s time for me to stop procrastinating that work by writing here, so I’ll leave this now and see how many more I can get through. We’d like to get this exhibit up by the end of the week. So hopefully the rest of my day won’t involve other supplies like, say, bandages. Because I suspect that might slow my productivity a little. And make my coordination even worse, if that’s technically possible. Wish me luck!