Some of my favorite objects in Duke’s digital collections are images of children. Some of them are touching, some of them are funny, and some of them are just plain cute. But when I see images of children, like this one from the Michael Francis Blake Photographs, I wonder: Who are they? What were their lives like, and what became of them?
There are great images of children in many of our digital collections, including the Michael Francis Blake Photographs, the Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, and Ad*Access. We’ll soon be adding to this list with a new collection, Images of Mainline Protestant Children and Families in the U.S. This collection, coming out of the Duke Divinity School Library, will consist of photos from American magazines of the mid-20th century, depicting what children and families in the U.S. looked like — or, often, idealized versions of what the creators thought they should look like.
As we build our digital collections, we keep in mind how they work as individual collections as well as how they work together. By using consistent metadata across collections and developing ways to display and let users interact with objects from many sources, we try to provide seamless access across collections and create opportunities for interdisciplinary research and interesting discoveries. A search on a term like “children” will bring back images, texts, audio, and video from around the world, various historical periods, and all kinds of social contexts — give it a try and see what you find.