Written by Aja Bain, Graduate Assistant
Before Facebook and Flickr albums, people documented their lives in real albums: books where you could paste in mementos and photographs of loved ones and adventures and journal your memories. Although scrapbooking is a popular hobby today, physical photographs and albums have become rarer in the digital age. But images themselves are ubiquitous. We can document everything from family vacations to what we’re having for dinner at the click of a button. With today’s quick and cheap photography, it’s easy to forget how meaningful photos were in the past.
Before photography was widely affordable and portable, formal posed portraits made by a professional photographer were the norm. The average person might be photographed just once in their entire life, to document their family, marriage, or even their own death.
In the twentieth century, cameras became staples of middle-class life, enabling ordinary people to take affordable and candid snapshots of daily life and to preserve them in scrapbooks with other materials. Here at the AGRC, we have a number of photograph and scrapbook albums that document life in historic Middle Tennessee, as well as the adventures of community members in far-off lands. These are great resources for learning about how ordinary people lived their lives, often in extraordinary circumstances, and how they chose to memorialize their experiences. These are just a few of the albums we hold:
Sara Curtis Cunningham, a student at Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in 1930
Blanche Clardy Boyd, a student at Middle Tennessee Normal School in 1918
Sadie Harber Adgent, a teacher turned “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II
Aaron Weise, a World War I pilot and part of the Murfreesboro Jewish community
Robert E. Alexander, a photographic intelligence officer who traveled the world during WWII and the Korean War
Louise Mott Miles, a 1928 Teachers College graduate who is the subject of our current exhibit “Uncommon Thread”
Cyril Morris, a WWII Air Force Corporal
… and many others! Here are some great pages from the albums.
Stop by the Albert Gore Research Center to learn more about these fascinating folks and their times through their personal memory albums!