All posts by Shadae Gatlin

Hope Harvested

This began as a quest for images of people engaging in recreational activities. Facing copious time indoors with limited places to go, many are looking for respite. I thought it would be uplifting to find pictures of people having fun. While combing through Duke University Libraries’ numerous digital collections in search of such images, several photos caught my eye. I clicked through hundreds of images reading their captions and summaries. Driven to delve deeper into collections for the story behind those smiling faces. As I sought these stories, I recalled the words of James Baldwin:

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.

Here were the lived experiences of people striving, aspiring, and persevering.

What started as a search for people pursuing pastimes quickly pivoted. It transformed into a search for people – smiling, laughing and hoping despite their circumstances. Presented below is a small harvest of photographs that inspired this post, including embedded links to their collections. As they did for me, I hope these photos may serve as a gateway to explore these inspired collections.

This image is from a series of photographs taken by James Karales between 1953 and 1957 in Rendville, Ohio, a small mining town which was one of the first racially integrated towns in the U.S.

 

African would-be immigrants play soccer in an enclosed compound at the Safi detention centre outside Valletta July 15, 2008. Around 1,500 illegal immigrants are currently held in detention in Malta for periods of up to 18 months. Though their intention was to reach Italy, most found themselves in Malta when they were rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces when they found themselves in difficulties while on their way to reach European soil from Africa.

 

Men eating at cooperative farm, central Cuba

Beyond One Thousand Words

There is a particular fondness that I hold for digital photograph collections. If I had to pinpoint when this began, then I would have to say it started while digitizing material on a simple Epson flatbed scanner as an undergraduate student worker in the archives.

Witnessing the physical become digital is a wonder that never gets old.

Every day we are generating digital content. Pet pics. Food pics. Selfies. Gradually building a collection of experiences as we document our lives in images. Sporadic born digital collections stored on devices and in the cloud.

I do not remember the last time I printed a photograph.

My parents have photo albums that I love. Seeing images of them, then us. The tacky adhesive and the crinkle of thin plastic film as it is pulled back to lift out a photo. That perfect square imprint left behind from where the photo rested on the page.

Pretty sure that Polaroid camera is still around somewhere.

Time bound up in a book.

Beyond their visual appeal, I appreciate how photos capture time. Nine months have passed since I moved to North Carolina. I started 2019 in Chicago and ended it in Durham. These photos of my Winter in both places illustrate that change well.

Sometimes I want to pull down my photos from the cloud and just print everything. Make my own album. Have something with heft and weight to share and say, “Hey, hold and look at this.” That sensory experience is invaluable.

Yet, I also value the convenience of being able to view hundreds of photos with the touch of a button.

Duke University Libraries offers access to thousands of images through its Digital Collections.

Here’s a couple photo collections to get you started:

Resonance of a Moment

Resonance: the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object

(Lexico, 2019)

Nearly 4 months have passed since I moved to Durham from my hometown Chicago to join Duke’s Digital Collections & Curation Services team. With feelings of reflection and nostalgia, I have been thinking on the stories and memories that journeys create.

I have always believed a library the perfect place to discover another’s story. Libraries and digital collections are dynamic storytelling channels that connect people through narrative and memory. What are libraries if not places dedicated to memories? Memory made incarnate in the turn of page, the capturing of an image.

Memory is sensation.

In my mind memory is ethereal – wispy and nebulous. Like trying to grasp mist or fog only to be left with the shimmer of dew on your hands. Until one focuses on a detail, then the vision sharpens. Such as the soothing warmth of a pet’s fur. A trace of familiar perfume in the air as a stranger walks by. Hearing the lilt of an accent from your hometown. That heavy, sticky feeling on a muggy summer day.

Memories are made of moments.

I do not recall the first time I visited a library. However, one day my parents took me to the library and I checked out 11 books on dinosaurs. As a child I was fascinated by them. Due to watching so much of The Land Before Time and Jurassic Park no doubt. One of the books had beautiful full-length pullout diagrams. I remember this.

Experiences tether individuals together across time and place. Place, like the telling of a story is subjective. It holds a finite precision which is absent in the vagueness and vastness of space. This personal aspect is what captures a person when a tale is well told.  A corresponding chord is struck, and the story resounds as listeners see themselves reflected.

When a narrative reaches someone with whom it resonates, its impact can be amplified beyond any expectations.

There are many unique memories and moments held in the Duke University Libraries digital collections. Come take a journey and explore a new story.

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. ~Desmond Tutu