At Play In The Archive
Hello, People. I hope that your holidays were glorious, and that your new year is off to a happy, healthy start. At our house, a nasty cold has been knocking us down like dominoes, but I think we’re finally seeing the last of it, thank goodness.
Though I have not been posting, I have not been idle. I spent the holiday doing another huge round of archival scanning, so will have many new treasures to share soon. Sometimes it seems like I will never reach the bottom of the pile, but I comfort myself with the realization that I’m dealing with what professional archivists call a “closed collection,” that is, a collection of papers and photographs whose original owners are no longer living, and so the collection is not likely to grow. I’m fortunate that it’s a fairly large collection, and of course, new treasures surface all the time (thanks, Jenny and Katy) so calling it closed is not entirely accurate; nevertheless, it helps me to feel less like Sisyphus and more like I am doing something that is actually possible.
So, what takes so long? I scan each image at high resolution, and then I keyword it with the information I know: Who, Where, What, When, and so on. Sometimes I don’t know anything, so I keyword the photo with “<surname> Mystery” and hope that more will be revealed later. As I work my way through the many piles, I find that some mystery people appear again and again, which is a clear indicator that they are significant, and sometimes I get very lucky and find clues later on that help me to go back and identify them. In those cases, I re-keyword with a better descriptor, even if it’s not the whole name. Sometimes I’m able to piece together dates using the same process, and where dates are readily available, I put things into chronological order as I scan. (Did I mention that everything was in a jumbled, unlabeled pile when it came to me? I will assert order if it kills me.) The most interesting patterns and connections come to light as a result of this painstaking process, narratives and theories that I never would be able to make without slogging through each and every step. ANYWAY, that’s what’s taking so long, People. I’ll get back to posting soon.
I have also taken up the accordion. Yes! So fun. I can almost feel my creaky middle-aged neural pathways rewiring themselves with each nightly practice, and my patient family informs me that I actually do not suck anymore. When I told my mom about my new obsession, she said that my Grandpa Bob Lessiack also used to play the accordion, which I did not know. He was a savant on nearly anything with a keyboard (I most certainly am not, though prior piano experience definitely helps), so I guess I’m not surprised. I only remember him playing the organ dazzlingly well, especially after he’d been plied with cocktails to help him overcome his shyness.
No one seems to know what happened to Grandpa Bob’s accordion, which is sad, but I feel him very close to my heart when I play. And for performance nerves, he’s right, cocktails help.
In the absence of a family heirloom on which to play, I bought a wonderful instrument with an interesting provenance on Craigslist which I will show you when I get it back from the repair shop. In the meantime, I’m playing a rental, which will do me nicely until my own baby makes it home from the hospital. I’ve also joined the San Francisco Accordion Club, which has been around since 1915, and which offers a wonderful monthly concert showcasing accordion talent of all varieties. I’m having so much fun.
Finally, and this is the really big news, I have been contacted by two more heretofore unknown Spielmann/Spellman cousins as a result of this blog. Oh, happy day! One cousin wrote to me, and one actually called me today. We chatted for over an hour, sharing stories, asking questions, and comparing notes. We’ll talk again soon, I hope, and continue sharing photos and clues. I got some locational tips that will help me through some brick walls, and more importantly, I’ve got some wonderful new relatives to get to know. A happy start to the new year, indeed.
Thanks for reading, People.
Welcome back! I don’t envy you the scanning project but I DO envy you for having so many photos. I just wish I did.
So how did you pick the accordion? My cousin used to play, and I thought it was pretty cool.
And yay for new cousins! That never gets old.
Grace and I went to a fair, and I saw a really great player. It occurred to me that I already understood how the right hand works, so hey, why not give it a try. It has been super duper fun to learn, although I have a long way to go on mastering that left hand, which is not like a keyboard at all. Happy new year!
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The accordian is a heavy instrument! My husband played it as a kid. Welcome back to blogging.
Thanks! Yes, the first instrument I tried was much too heavy for me to play comfortably, but the one I ended up buying is perfect for me.
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It looks like we’re on the same page! I also started scanning photos, along with postcards, the backs of postcards and letters. Then I store them on a cloud with notes and translations. It’s great because everything is so organized.
Your accordion hobby sounds great. You’ll have to make a video of it and post it on your blog.
Yes! The backs are very important, both for the information they contain as well as for clues about who did the annotations, if you can identify the handwriting. But it’s not always fun. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, “I hate scanning. I love having scanned.”
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