Lately, I've been volunteering at the Stearns County History Museum (7 miles away, compared to 32 for the Weyerhaeuser). My task is scanning historic photos so they're searchable online. I've started with the small towns, because St Cloud always seems to get favored, just like Little Falls does at the Weyerhaeuser--it can't be helped. Scanning's really interesting, and I get to study any picture I want ☺.
'Course, this makes me think even more about photographs, and how delightful and important they are in recording our history. It's only partly about who the early movers and shakers were. It's often not the bigwigs whose photos are there--it totally depends on which family thought to donate Grammy's pictures to the museum, ya know?
The earliest photos I've scanned were taken in Europe or during the Civil War, so 1860s or so, and the latest are about 2007...only around 140 years of photo documentation. The earliest settlers in this part of Minnesota arrived in the 1850s, and photographic studios were definitely part of early businesses on Main Street, Everytown by 1880 or so, when family portraits and buddy-pics became fashionable.
The thing is, there were no documentary photos before that, and now, people take hundreds of pictures with their phones, but they're never printed, so will never end up in a folder in a museum. How odd to have tangible documentation of such a short period of our history. It's so easy to forget what was there before....
I think we need a new campaign, asking people to send significant photos by email to museums, using tiff files (the latest in historians' opinions about what will last).
It interests me that lately, someone will post a Q on social media, maybe about what the riverbank looked like in 1940, or what was there before Crossroads, or pics from last week's festival, and people respond by sending photos they took, but it's all color, clear and online. Will that be enough in the future?