Once the Pictures are Digitized, Everything Old is New AgainWednesday, November 14, 2018
|Ellen Carter - Buenos Aires 1929
Almost every day at breakfast in bed (18 years, daily with Rosemary) there is something in my hard copy New York Times that shakes me up and immediately installs on me a thinking cap.
I write “almost every day” because on Saturdays it also happens after dinner. It is around 8PM every Saturday that we get the Sunday NY Times. This past Saturday/ Sunday (November 11, 2018) I was really jolted. The paper had a special section (in a smaller format the size of their book review) called Past Tense California – History Through the Eyes of the New York Times. It had lovely old and more recent photographs in black and white of California. On the last page I read this:
“Once the pictures are digitized, everything old is new again.”
Jeff Roth, Researcher & Archive Caretaker - The New York Times
On page 2 of the main section of the paper I found one of my fave daily columns called Inside TheTimes – The Story Behind The Story. The feature this time around was The Times’s (note that ‘s!) Capsule of History. You can read that here. A photograph taken in 1948 shows the photo library and I immediately note the presence of metal filing cabinets identical to the ones behind me in my oficina as I write this. Well not quite identical. Mine stack four drawers and the one at the Times five. I don’t have six million photographs. My 7 filing cabinets hold my output from 1989 until the very present.
|The New York Times photo library in 1948 when it was located in the art department
Because I also shoot digital I never fill my storage cards (I shoot jpgs not RAW). I download them into my computer and an outside backup. But (and this is important) I store my storage cards with my photo files, all in alphabetical order. I suspect I may have 250 thousand negatives, slides, transparencies and many photographs.
As I read that beautiful statement by Jeff Roth I wondered with what photograph from all the ones I have that somehow would portray “old is new again.”
The photograph came quickly. Some many years ago (perhaps 1967) my uncle Leo Mahdjubian (who was not my uncle in reality but we in the Waterhouse-Hayward family adored him. He often helped us with loans that were infrequenly paid back) gave me this photograph of my paternal grandmother Ellen Carter that was taken in 1929.
In our family she has always been Ellen Carter and never Ellen Waterhouse-Hayward. She was married to my grandfather Harry Waterhouse-Hayward.
Why was this? Well it seems that Harry, Ellen and son Harry traveled from their native Manchester to Buenos Aires in 1901. Buenos Aires records show us that Harry senior and Ellen got married not long after in Buenos Aires. Thus so my father stated (in rumours as he never told me this directly) Harry Jr. was a bastard son and thus did not have the right to have the middle name Waterhouse due to the male firstborn. My father then was the son who was born in wedlock and passed the fine middle name to yours truly. As for Harry Jr. he taught me how to make Colman’s Mustard. It was most important to add sugar.
I would like to finish here to point out if you do not read the above The Times’s Capsule History that with a Google partnership the NY Times is digitizing all that material.
This has a crucial connection with Vancouver (an opposite crucial one). A few months ago the Vancouver Sun donated 2 million negatives to the Vancouver Archives. Many of those negatives are colour negatives shot in the 80s. Colour negative is an intrinsically unstable material that needs refrigeration.
Now consider that you might need a couple of minutes to scan one negative. By my calculations you would need 33333.333 hours to do the job. Will anybody at the Vancouver Archives take on that project? Is there enough space there for refrigeration?
Now there really is no comparison between the NY Times and the Vancouver Sun. By donating the 2 million negatives the Vancouver Sun has simply passed the buck.
And consider that since I have been blogging from January 2006 some of my blogs have links to articles in the Vancouver Sun. Most are gone. My question now is how the digital output (both in written articles and accompanying photographs) of the current Vancouver Sun may be handled.
In these days we have “lest we forget” in our minds. Just a few days after if we are thinking of our city heritage I would say “we are sure to forget”.
There will be nothing there to help us remember.