Vintage Images and Random Exploration

A dark and dreary winter Saturday with the main chores done, weary body and mind numb and no more motivation but for some good old-fashioned exploring – on the ‘net, of course, Flickr Commons to be specific, or at least that’s where it started.

I can always find inspiration in the vintage images of The Commons: a repository of image collections which began as a joint project with the Library of Congress. Its stated objectives are:

  1. To increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and
  2. To provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge. (Then watch what happens when they do!)

It’s a great place to explore, but one that can lead you into the time-pit of question-chains. One thing always leads to another when exploring. When truly exploring, with that open, almost empty mind, revelations lead to questions, answers to deeper inquiry. Flickr Commons is a place that inspires that kind of wanderlust. In a browsy mood, I typed “reading” into the Commons search and soon discovered this image.

Women and girls reading near swingset where younger children are suspended in hammock like swings, July 1910.

Lewis Wickes Hine, 1874-1940 -- Photographer

A fascinating, unique image. Clicking on it will take you to its page in the Commons, which, in turn will lead you to its page in New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery. Then, of course, I had to find out more about the photographer, who (according to Wikipedia),was an American sociologist and photographer. Hine used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States”.

Intriguing. Now I needed to decide whether to dig deeper into the photographer’s work, (anyone known as “instrumental in changing” anything deserves a closer look, and his is a pretty important ‘anything’), to continue to browse all the image results in my reading keyword search, or to stay with the NYPL Gallery’s photostream. (All of which I want to do of course and may still.)

I decided to stay with the gallery for a while until I ran across this image.

"Work with schools, Aguilar Branch : young people's librarians and students" 1938 - Photographer not credited

Curiosity about the texts in the image led me to do a general Internet search for “Books for Young People” 1938. The resulting hits were somewhat random, including an unhelpful listing in Google Books and an interesting article (which temporarily steered me off on yet another track) about the recently deceased illustrator Will Clay, who happened to have been born in “1938” and illustrated “books for young people”.

Then there was this article surveying the literature from 1938. Among them were the classics Gone With the Wind, The Yearling and The Hobbit, which latter book was highlighted in my next click from Children’s Book Collecting.

The Horn Book Magazine, March - April, 1938

“Prediction is dangerous, but ‘The Hobbit’ may well prove a classic.
Illustrated in color and in line by the author.                                 $2.50″

I still don’t know if the librarian in the second image is embracing an elaborately bound notebook with hand-written lists and notations for her recommendations, or a published and factory-bound reference book. I wonder, too if the thin volume that the students are holding might have been a copy of The Horn Book?

I won’t find out today in any case, since I am now out of play time. But perhaps someone who reads this can spark the flame again with the answer, or maybe another leading question.

Taking an interest from images through information to more questions, a random click or two in the Flickr Commons can be a delightful and enlightening experience, an exemplar of the Inquiry method of learning.

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Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Online Resources

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