Saturday, February 10, 2018

Storage Cabinet Time Machine

We've spent the last two days cleaning out the library. I've mostly been weeding the fiction section, but yesterday morning, my boss and I dug into the storage cabinets in the conference room. This seems to be where stuff goes when no one knows what else to do with it.

We found stacks and stacks of old photo print kits, once used in teaching -- pictures of Nazi Germany and stuff like that. Back before the Internet, those kits were necessary, but now of course all those resources are online and no one's touched them for years.

Similarly, there was a huge bag of old slides. Most were pictures of artworks, used for art history classes. (Those of us who are of a certain age will remember sitting through those slide shows, trying to differentiate Chagall from Picasso.)

But in among the art history slides -- which we threw away, because again, they're useless now -- I found this little vinyl pouch. Inside were five old slides of London. (The package says 4, but someone must have stuck an extra one in there.) Three are marked "Ministry of Public Building and Works" and two bear the name "Walton Sound & Film Services Ltd.", then a private film studio in London. The slides aren't dated, but the pouch is priced at seven shillings, which means it has to be pre-1971, the year decimalization did away with shillings in Britain.

The slides are color, but the colors have deteriorated so badly over the years that I can only reproduce most of them in black and white. This is the exception -- a slightly warped-looking image of Kew Palace.

Here's the Petticoat Lane market, in London's east end. (I was just there a few weeks ago!) I can't immediately identify those buildings -- I wonder if they're there anymore?

And what about all these people? Where would they be now? Let's assume this was taken in 1970 -- almost 50 years ago. (I think it's older than that, maybe even by a decade, but let's just assume.) The boy at lower left would be 60-ish now. Many of the others are almost certainly long gone.

Here's a photo of the "Yeoman Gaoler of the Tower," at the Tower of London.

The other two photos are essentially timeless. There's this one, of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, with a ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens.

And there's this interior view of Westminster Abbey.

So there you have it -- rescued from the trash! Hopefully whoever owns the copyright to these photos, if anyone at this point, won't mind that I've put them online.


  1. At Petticoat Lane, on the left, I notice that there is an ad by The Milk Marketing Board - "Drinka Pinta Milka Day". This campaign was launched in 1958 but continued through the sixties. There's a woman at the market wearing a long floral dress. To me that style places this picture in the very early sixties. I would say 1961 when Britain was just starting to emerge from post-war austerity but before The Beatles. Fascinating discovery.

  2. I agree with YP on the era. Looks earlier than the 70's to me. Don't you wonder what else is tucked away in sheds and in attics, in basements and in closets under stairwells?

  3. Amazing when you think that back in the past, your find would have instead been like finding gold. I remember the excitement of having audio visual materials to jazz up a lesson.
    How many years in the future will a cache of laptops be found and discarded?

  4. What interesting things you found in that closet. I remember very well the days we would have slides to look at in the classroom. I always enjoyed those days. I guess I've always ben a visual person, more stimulated by pictures than words. I agree with those above, judging from the clothing I'd say late 50's or early 60's too.

  5. You, my friend, are an urban archeologist, a curator of the artifacts of how we live be our lives. Sounds better than trash geek maybe. Those I do like that phrase since you coined it yourself. I admire your ability to find the treasure hiding in plain sight, and the stories that come with them.

  6. I can just see you rummaging through this material. It's good that somebody took the hard decision and discarded the material.

  7. That's a fascinating glimpse into the past.

  8. I love the shot of Petticoat Lane. And I was going to say that from the clothing and hairstyles I'd place the time at the late 50s or early 60s (probably early 60s) and am glad to see several other readers have also come to that conclusion.

    I can't decide whether old stuff should be saved or tossed. I think a pictorial representation is probably the best idea in most cases - or a museum, and they only have so much room.

  9. you find the most interesting stuff.

  10. YP: Thanks for the info about the milk ad! I wondered what that billboard said. I thought maybe it said "Drinka Pinta ALE"! I agree that it looks more like an early- to mid-'60s photo.

    Ms Moon: Absolutely! I also wonder how many photos I'm in, just wandering through a crowd.

    Marty: I suppose the danger, with digital info, is that there's just so much of it. What's not current will simply sink out of sight into the vast ocean.

    Sharon: I always liked slideshows, too! I remember my classmates groaning, and I never understood that.

    37P: Really, you're giving me way too much credit, but I am fascinated by discarded stuff.

    Red: I wish I'd rummaged more carefully, actually. There were some slide boxes that I only looked at quickly, and I hate to think I may have thrown out anything worthwhile! Most of it was pictures of paintings and sculptures, though. Not very interesting in terms of being saved for posterity, since the works are still out there, being photographed every day.

    Catalyst: Isn't it?!

    Padre: Thanks -- and thanks for stopping by!

    Jenny-O: Yeah, that's my favorite pic, too. I'm thinking early- to mid-'60s. Some old stuff simply has to be tossed. Particularly old art history slides, when the colors have changed over time and better representations of the artworks are now available online!

    Ellen: Well, thank you. :)