History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

16 March, 2011


History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity. ~Dexter Perkins (American historian)

I've found the past irresistibly interesting for a very, very long time. I've always felt that if anyone doesn't like history, it's only because it wasn't presented to them very well-- history is, at heart, all stories, all characters. It is a "different country", as L. P. Huxley famously put it, and exploring it is almost a form of travel. We see different things, things that look different, people who act in different ways... but at heart, people who are the same as us. People who feel just the same things we feel, however different their circumstances. That is what I love about history, the people.

That's an awfully academic introduction for a blog that's essentially going to consist of looking at pictures, isn't it? Let's have a picture, then, before any more semi-serious discussion.

I've chosen this one because I think it's beautiful and so sweet, and because it does touch on that universal of humanity, across the countries and across the ages: love. Source

I've acquired a habit for spending hours looking at online museum and gallery collections of old photographs, posters, ads, and so on-- and really it's just reinforced to me this beautiful feeling that the people of the past are people just like we are. With photography, you can look into the eyes of a young man from the civil war, and see the person that he is, see how he could be someone you know dressed up in period costume. I'm especially touched by war photographs because you see these very real people in circumstances they shouldn't be in, and it makes the whole thing feel so real.

Yes, this means pictures.

Looking at this picture brings tears to my eyes. He is so young, and he looks so haunted... and, sadly, he didn't survive the war. Just this one imagine makes the pain of WWI feel so much more real to me than any amount of statistics could. Source (and more details)

A Civil War photograph-- think, this young man lived over 150 years ago, and you can look into his eyes and get a sense of who he is. He is a real person in a real war, just like the gunner in the last photo. I don't think I'll ever stop being touched by that. Source

As is clear if you've clicked on any of the links, these pictures come from the online collections of many wonderful institutions. The Flickr Commons is a spot where various insitutions from all over the world can share their collections, and is a terrific resource-- there will be lots that I found there. Individual sites are usually amazing, too-- The Library of Congress has a phenomenal online collection, as do the Imperial War Museum, British Library, and National Museum of Scotland. I will link all photographs either to their listing on the Flickr Commons or the individual site, and encourage all readers to explore the collections further!

Finally-- some of this stuff is just fun. We're going to look at wartime propaganda posters, for sure... and also some wartime or WPA posters that are just awesome. Enjoy.


Ana said...

Ah, it's great to see/hear a glimpse into the motivation behind such a lovely blog.

Anna said...

Many thanks to such a lovely follower! :)

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