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He Walked Out of 1940 and into the Library

Bass Indy

Our senior director of Collections asked me once about some of my “gee whiz” moments here, which got me to thinking about the interesting people I’ve encountered in my work. We’re always excited to share our collections with book publishers, documentary producers and the public.

Last year, I really enjoyed being able to share photographs with the BBC Scotland for a documentary they produced about Alexander Gardner, the Scottish immigrant famed as one of the principal photographers of our Civil War. Books and documentaries enable us to share history on a grand scale, but there are also some small, almost private moments that I’ve been privileged to experience.

Many years ago, an elderly man came into the library and said he had seen a picture of himself on the wall of a local restaurant; he wanted copies for his children. After some searching, I found it. In the photograph, he was just walking down the street with a small box in his hand. It turned out that he was a jewelry engraver and was carrying something away from a store to his studio. As I talked with him about the photograph I wondered what it felt like to find oneself in the historical society. Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of people who find themselves here – in one way or another. I know I did.