Welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog. Here in the office we have tons of photos on the walls. Most of them are pictures of people and immigrants, in all kinds of different situations. Now I am sure that you all have heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Indeed, many family photos have stories attached to them, earning them their thousand words. However, what about photos whose stories have been lost? There are many pictures like that here at Hometown Heritage. For instance, on the wall next to my desk is a picture of a man with a chicken on his shoulder. By looking it up in our system, I can find out that it is a photo of a Welshman named D. R. Jones, who was the great-grandfather of Dick Shoesmith (the original donor of the item), but that is the only information about it in the system. Yet there is so much more that this photo could tell! Questions like the location of the photo and the exact date of the photo are unanswered. Even the biggest question, why does D. R. Jones have a chicken on his shoulder, is unanswered. Was it a pet chicken? Or was it a random chicken he found out in the wild and it happened to jump on his shoulder and stay there? Or maybe it is a stuffed chicken that he is posing with? Since there was little information recorded at the time of the picture’s donation, it is impossible to know for sure if any of those reasons are true. Because of this, it is important to record as much as possible for every photo. Without that information, the full story of a photo is lost.
Think about the pictures that you have in your house. Can you remember the story behind every photo? Or have some of these pictures lost their meaning, because no one is around to tell their stories, or not enough information has been recorded? I know that in my home, there are photos of people (purchased in an auction for the frames they were in) that we lovingly call great-grandma and grandpa, even though they are completely unrelated to us. In fact, we have absolutely no idea who these people are. They may not even be real for all we know! Still, their pictures may be worth a thousand words, but without a voice, their words and stories are lost. So remember to tell the stories of your photos to whoever will listen, as we will do here at Hometown Heritage. It is important that people do not forget the history behind photos like these, so that they do not end up like D. R. Jones and his shoulder chicken (seriously, why is it on his shoulder?). We will ask Dick if he can shed some light on this question.