The summer holidays are over and kids around NZ are heading back to school. While Auckland schools are full to bursting, there are still small country schools where all the pupils could easily fit into a photo like this. Long may these communities thrive.
Writing this has made me think how important it is to preserve objects – or at least the memory of objects – in family history. I’ve been cataloging the photos and letters my mum gave me, but had neglected the box of “stuff” I’d kept as remembrance tokens of/for the boy-child. I emptied the box yesterday and sorted the contents. Now I just need to get some acid-free tissue to store the little clothes in, write a finding aid, pack it all back up again …. better add it to the list!
“It contained so much feeling, this piece of fabric cut from the dress of the baby being handed over by its mother, for life.” — Mollie Oldfield The Secret Museum (p. 88)
The Secret Museum tells the story of sixty objects, held in museum collections but not on public display. Most, if not all, museums have large numbers of items or whole collections that are kept in storage; sometimes because the items are too fragile or valuable and sometimes because there is simply no space.
The book itself is a bit unsatisfying; there seems to be no particular logic to her choice of item – except perhaps an expedience of finding several things in the same location to save on the travel budget. And perhaps most frustratingly, there are only very few – generally quite small – photos of the objects alongside some childish illustrations.
That aside, there are some…
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… don’t call him Bigfoot for nothing!
Another mysterious group of women in costume (see Mystery Photo from the family album). Sadly we have no catalogue entry for this one. I do know though, that the lady with glasses on the far right is one of the Big T’s great aunts, and I believe the photo was probably taken in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Shade, cuppa and time to read
My mother comes from a large family; and one which has traditionally been very close. She has memories of family outings that encompassed so many people they needed a bus – as in the photo above.
Of course, this was in part because fewer people owned cars in Britain in the 1950s and 60s, but even so, I find it remarkable that a family could be large enough – and enjoy each others company enough – to go to the trouble of hiring a bus to convey them to a picnic spot.
I recognise many of the faces in the photo, but unfortunately my mum hasn’t written names on the back so I’m unsure of many others.
My gran is at the back in a dark jumper – peeking out from behind her sister-in-law, Ella Cruden. My grandad’s the only adult male in the shot – his face shadowed by his “bunnet.” I can see three (or possibly all four) of my mum’s sisters – Cathie, May and Sandra (and maybe Margaret), and her sister-in-law, Betty. I recognise three of my cousins – Rob and Elaine both bonneted toddlers on their mother’s laps. The only other person I’m sure of is my great grandmother, Cathrine Cruden, in the checked jacket and beret – looking, I have to say, a bit underwhelmed and also a bit like an extra from ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Looking closely, I can see men in the background – turned away from the camera. The one with the bald spot could be my uncle Bill, but I don’t recognise the others’ backs. So where were the men? They can’t all have been taking the photo?
Like most family historians, I have a treasured collection of family photos – from stiff studio portraits to the latest Christmas shots snapped on a smart phone. But it is this picture that best represents the idea of “family” for me. It contains at least four generations of my close family, plus others to whom I am almost certainly related in some way. They are casually dressed, sitting in a field surrounded by the debris of a picnic, posing for a snapshot rather than a portrait. They aren’t gathered for some formal occasion demanding family presence – like a wedding or christening – but brought together simply to enjoy a day out. It isn’t a great photo – but it’s a great picture of what family can be like.
Here are some other “family photo” posts I’ve enjoyed: