Christmas 1909, Children’s Aid Society Italian House
(from Harvard University’s Open Collections Program, Immigration to the United States)
This week one of my library classes has been focusing on digital collections and all the benefits / worries that ensue. One of the worries is the loss of the integrity and “faith” of the original, the trust we’ve placed in certain elements of physical objects. A lot more will be left open to imagination now in the digital age … like the physical elements of this photograph. Even though I’ve never felt the paper its printed on, on run a finger around the (possibly?) embossed edges, a digital copy has allowed me to look over this image and marvel at the lights suspended from the ceiling and the girl’s face turned toward the camera, and the fashion of the woman sitting next to her. But I hope that, if libraries preserve nothing else, they preserve these opportunities for imagination. I wonder if the lack of respect for libraries that we’re seeing these days isn’t so much about Google and digital information, but more about the lack of respect for history and the stories it has to tell us.