When I was a student at Baylor University in the late 2000’s, I was lucky to work at one of the campus libraries—the Baylor Collection of Political Materials—an archive that contains a treasure trove of old things and forgotten times. For three and a half years, I spent countless hours sifting through old letters, campaign memorabilia and of course, photographs. I’ve always been drawn to history, especially personal stories. During my time at the archive, I spent over a year cataloging the photos and letters that Penn Jones Jr., a newspaper editor and JFK researcher, sent to his wife during his deployment in World War II.
When I started working at National Geographic, I never imagined that my love of old photographs and family stories might be part of my job. Enter: the Found Tumblr. In early March when my co-worker Web Barr came to me with an idea to start an archival Tumblr, I was more than ready to jump in and help.
To curate “Found” I search National Geographic’s internal archive for photos that strike me as remarkable or extraordinary, and sequence them to reveal a broad glimpse of different eras, moments and people from the past.
Last month I posted an image from 1939 of seven siblings sitting on a fence in Quebec. Much to my surprise, I was contacted by Julia Caron, a CBC radio producer, who was intrigued by the image and wanted to know more. I didn’t have much information to share with her at the time, but a few days later I received an email from Ketsia Houde—the granddaughter of the blond boy second from the right. I immediately connected Caron and Houde, so they could talk more about the family in the photograph.
After talking with Houde, Caron produced a detail-rich radio piece for the CBC profiling the rural area of Quebec that was visited by photographer Howell Walker in 1938, for a May 1939 magazine story called “Gentle Folk Settle Stern Saguenay.”
It brings me joy to experience how the digital era has enabled us to revive history and bring both local and global communities together. Personal narratives endure, even in our rapidly changing society.
Visit CBC’s website to hear the entire radio piece. It’s well worth the listen.