Friday, June 29, 2007

But mommy, I don't want to look at pictures of shuffleboard again

In the past few months we've encountered a number of collections of people's travel slides out in the fields of surveying. These have ranged from small boxes with a few dozen slides a piece to an entire metal cabinet of 3D stereo slides.

I have to admit, my first, admittedly unfair, reaction to these collections is usually "Why??!!" I have visions of these collections' lives before they found archival homes, and these visions generally consist of generations of grandchildren being forced to sit in darkened living rooms, watching through the window at their friends outside playing, while Grandma and Grandpa recount all the meals they ate during their annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach.

But we've seen some pretty interesting travel slides so far, from people who didn't just hit the typical tourist destinations in their journeys or approach their travels in the usual way. There was the set at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society by an unknown photographer whose travels included cruises to Cuba, Panama, and the North Cape, and vacations spent documenting the people and places of Minnewaska, New York. (Elena Sisti, the Horticultural Society's Information Services Librarian, said she could see the makings of a whole Lake Wobegon-type narrative for these.) There was also the collection at the University of Delaware's Special Collections whose extensive indexing and categorization reflected an anthropological approach to the world, even though the travel was likely for pleasure, not business. Even the set whose accompanying narrative consisted primarily of descriptions of morning routines and dinner menu selections, also at the University of Delaware, was oddly compelling.

On a related (though more frivolous) note, the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players have made a career of taking slide collections they find at garage sales and thrift stores and turning them into songs. (I've always thought they'd be the perfect musical entertainment for the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists.) Take a look at the video slideshow that accompanied the CD version of their song "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959" for an innovative use of travel slides.


Elena said...

I wonder what the Trachtenburgs would do with our Minnewaska slides. I'm sure it would be terrific!

Elena said...

The Trachtenburgs sound a lot like They Might Be Giants.

Christine said...

Their sounds definitely do bear some similarities to each other - especially the vocals, with their unmodulated, kiddie music quality. (In fact, don't TMBG do kids' music now?) Not to mention that they are both so very educational - who can forget the transformation of Constantinople to Istanbul after hearing that They Might Be Giants song a few times? I think only the Trachtenburgs plumb archival sources, however, and thus they are still my honorary professional backing band of choice.

But I bet both bands could write a song about the people of Minnewaska, slides or no slides!

Elena said...

If you've got a date in Minnewaska,
She'll be waiting in Istanbul.