Unpacking my photo albums 2: The 1970s

DSC02905 I have found my third photo album and rephotographed (with digital camera) the photos I would like to keep. This is no. 2 in a planned series of blogs on ‘unpacking’ my photograph albums – getting them out of their various storage places and digitising the photos I want and then I can decide which albums to keep. You can read no. 1 here.

This album covers four years of the middle 1970s and like much of the 1970s is a brown colour! Many of my clothes at the time seemed to be shades of earthy browns, yellows, oranges, greens with blues for contrast. It was also the era of the hand knitted (my mother) and hand crocheted (me) garments before clothes became cheaper to buy than make. Continue reading


Unpacking my photograph albums?

Those of you who know Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Unpacking my Library’ – you can read a PDF copy here – will know where I’ve taken my title from. Benjamin  (1892-1940) is described by Wikipedia as a philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. He was talking about unpacking his books, which had been in storage for a couple of years. His essay was more about “the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than a collection”. I read about him when I studied art history – in particular during a paper on Collecting and Collectors.

So, why ‘unpacking my photo albums’ – in fact they aren’t really packed up. They are just stored in various places around my house – stuffed under a sofa, put in the triangular corner space of a bookcase, leaning against walls, inside a piano stool and a footstool, and so on.


I have been thinking for some time about what to do with them. Young people may be somewhat bewildered by this as most photos these days are digital things – held on a camera, computer, in a ‘cloud’ – not taking up physical space. But many of mine are pre-digital relics (as I am, really!) Continue reading

Scenes of Victorian and Edwardian life

Sylvia howling

‘Aurora Australis or Sylvia howling’ – Sylvia Fell photographed in 1891, Charles Fell album; Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: PA1-q-075-22-1

In my NZ Edwardian Photo Albums – Part 3 post I said I had recently looked at six photograph albums in the collection of Alexander Turnbull Library here in Wellington. This was part of my attempt to compare Sid Small’s album (Ref: PA1-o-1382) – which I used to own – with some other albums from around the same period (c. 1905/6) or that showed the types of casual scenes that his album includes. My previous post on Richard Seddon’s trip to the west coast, 1906 covered three of the albums – all travelogues; this post covers the remaining two photo albums. Continue reading

Richard Seddon’s visit to the west coast, 1906

Last week I attended a National Digital Forum (a two day conference in Wellington, mostly on digital heritage) – I was a volunteer helper who went where needed, but I heard some interesting papers. One was about a game played via Twitter that Auckland Museum set up with a few other institutions. Over a couple of days each institution posted a clue with a photo of an object from their collection and people had to guess what the theme was. So here are a few objects – what’s the theme? Continue reading

New Zealand Edwardian photo albums – part 3

DSC07521  DSC07522

In my first post on this topic (A NZ Edwardian Photo album) I looked at an album that used to be in my possession but is now in the Turnbull Library – the photos were taken by Sidney Small, who compiled the album and gifted it to my grandparents Walter and Winifred Morrell in 1906. Continue reading

Art pilgrimage – part two


After writing my earlier Art and Literature ‘pilgrimages’ post I found I had more of an archive on my ‘art pilgrimage’ than I thought. In addition to two photo albums, I also found a visual diary, with photos, postcards and text (some I copied from the travel diary I kept on the trip) and an album of postcards. This seems excessive in hindsight, but the trip was a turning point in terms of my art history studies. Prior to the trip I had studied some art history at secondary school level; I had been to various art history continuing education classes, and once I decided to go on the tour I enrolled in the Victoria University second-year level course on Modernism. But within a year after this trip I had resigned from permanent employment in the public service and soon enrolled in more university courses – eventually completing a Master of Arts in art history.

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Art and literature ‘pilgrimages’

Chekhov & MatisseAmerican writer Janet Malcolm in her book Reading Chekhov describes going to Yalta (in Russia on the Black Sea), following in Russian author Anton Chekhov’s footsteps. She sits on a bench looking at the view that characters in his short story ‘Lady with the Dog’ (1899) looked at. She says: “I am a character in a new drama: the absurdist farce of the literary pilgrim who leaves the magical pages of a work of genius and travels to an ‘original scene’ that can only fall short of his expectations.” (p. 4)[1]

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