Tag Archives: photos

Museum Selfie Day

In case you missed it, January 21 was Museum Selfie Day, a selfie being a photo a person takes of him or her self.  The development of the cell phone camera that can take photos both forward and backward has made taking one’s own photo very easy. Instagram and twitter have given the selfie an audience.

Quite a bit has been written about the practice of selfies in museums.  As you probably would expect, writers are divided in their opinions on the practice.

Those who oppose the practice say that selfies are akin to notches on a gun.  In a culture where many seem to think that if you don’t have a photograph of yourself doing something, then it really didn’t happen.  Each selfie is a notch on the gun of life, proof that one has actually seen a landmark or a work of art.  In addition, selfies are distracting to other museum-goers.  It’s hard to seriously contemplate Rembrandt when people and their cellphones keep getting between you and the art.

But what really seems to bug some critics is that museums are supposed to be “serious” places of learning.  The constant snapping of photos is replacing the proper examination of art.

On the other hand, supporters of museum selfies argue that the practice is a good way to get people to actively engage with art.  Taking a good selfie requires that the photographer study the work of art carefully.  And allowing selfies might encourage participation by reluctant museum visitors (teenagers) who might otherwise be focused on texting friends or playing the latest online game  while the family tours the museum.

If my twitter feed is any indication, many museums have embraced the day.  Institutions large and small tweeted their support of #MuseumSelfieDay.   I’m sure that some of them have decided that “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”  Camera phones are not going to go away and people are going to use them.  More and more museums have taken down the no photos signs, partly because it’s just too difficult to police camera usage.

But other museums seem to be genuinely delighted that they have their own social media day.  They have people on their staffs who see social media for what it is, a part of people’s lives that is here to stay.  They already have accounts on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and so are reaching a lot of people that way.  Having an event like #MuseumSelfieDay allows a museum to use those accounts to encourage visitors to come in and participate.

This is only the second year of #MuseumSelfieDay, so I suppose it is a bit early to see if the promotion is having any effect on attendance on that day.  But there seemed to be good participation, so if you are serious about your museum visits, I suggest you not plan one for selfie day next year.

In looking for a photo for this post I realized that while I don’t have a museum selfie of myself, I do have lots of photographs from museum visits.  Ever since the camera became available to travelers, it has been used to document their journeys.  In looking back at a lifetime of travel photos I find that the most interesting ones are the ones that contain images of my family and friends, and to be honest, me.   And in collecting vintage photos, it is the people in each that makes it interesting.

Consider the photo of my husband that I used to illustrate.  Would the photo of the sculpture be as meaningful to me if he were not sitting there?  I doubt that without his presence that I’ve even remember where the photo was taken, but with him sitting there the events of an entire day come flooding back into conscious memory.  We had spent the day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had finished up by spending the last hours of the afternoon touring the museum there.  The bears provided a welcome resting spot and a good photo opportunity.

I really don’t see the selfie as a new phenomenon, but rather as a new version of an old one.  While I don’t feel the need to photograph myself at every place I go, I can’t help but look at photos taken decades ago and get pleasure from seeing my face on the road, having fun.

Me, 1999


Filed under Museums, Viewpoint

Thoughts on Snapshots

Be sure to click for details.

I think we were all a little hard on photographs yesterday, so I thought I’d do a post in praise of them.  Not modern photos, of course; I’m going to praise the vintage snapshot.

Last week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art there were some small gallerys filled with old snapshots.  I was delighted to read that they were part of the massive collection of Peter J. Cohan, a collector I’ve read about several times over the past year.  Cohan began looking through and buying vintage snapshots at flea markets in 1990.  He did not look for any particular thing, but instead he just wanted to buy what seemed interesting to him.

Twenty-three years and over 35,000 photos later, museums, including the Met,  are starting to acquire parts of the collection.  The display has the photos arranged in quirky categories: kids with cigarettes, women with guns, women boxing.

Edwardian mooners

Just like Mommy

Two variations on a theme

If it is there, they will climb it

What is it that makes vintage photos so much fun?  Sometimes it is the spontaneity, but all these photos were staged.  Perhaps it is that, unlike today where we can snap and re-snap until we like the result, the photographer of yesteryear knew she or he really had only one or two takes to get it right, and there was no way to know if it was right until the photos were returned by the developer.

Then when the photos came, all the exposures were included, mistakes and all.  Today, many people never even print their photos, and when they do, only the best are picked to become hard copies.  I took over 250 photos in New York, but only had 35 of them printed.  And that was after I’d deleted hundreds more.

I think that most vintage photo collectors are like me, that is they do look for specific things in the old photos they acquire.  I may just follow Cohan’s example and be a little more open to the fun and the oddball.



Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Museums, Vintage Photographs

Ski Report

This photo dates to the late 1930s and was taken in St. Moritz.  The couple is Mr. and Mrs. Blackbarrow, and the woman on the right is Olga.  They are taking time out from a morning of skiing (note the boots) and are relaxing with a little glass of wine in a quaint cafe.

Why is it that skiing photos from Europe always look so glamorous, while those made in the US look outdoorsy?

At any rate, I have a new blog on my blogroll, that of  Poppy Gall, who writes about skiing and textiles and knitting and design.  I’m headed off for a few days of R&R at the end of the week, and some of my relaxing time will be spent catching up on her old posts.

Here’s another photo of Olga with her glamorous pal Viola.  Contrast them with the two American skiers in the last photos.


Filed under Sportswear, Winter Sports

Ramblers – Germany

These photos dates from the 1930s through 1950. All are from Germany.  All I really have to say is that I cannot wait until rambling weather returns!


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Travel, Vintage Photographs

Outdoors Fashion on the Rocks

Yes, quite literally, on the rocks!

I just love vintage photos, and I’m always looking for ones that show women wearing sports clothing, especially if I have similar item in my own collection.  But like anything else, they can quickly get out of control, and if one isn’t careful, the result might be shoe boxes full of photos of all kinds jumbled together.

So I have a filing system, with all photos going into the correct file as soon are they are scanned.  That way I can always put my hands on the original.

This week as I was sorting through some new photos, it occurred to me that I could be categorizing these in so many different ways.  Take the photo above, which is a new favorite.  It will go into the “outings” file, but I could have as easily made a file called “Rocks.”  As I continued to sort, I could not help but notice just how many photos have people posing on rocks.  And not just at the shore; there are desert rocks and river rocks, mountain rocks and creek rocks.  It seems that people do gravitate toward big rocks, probably because nature usually does not provide armchairs!

I love the top photo because I’m convinced that the lady in the white hat is sketching the scene.

More from the On the Rocks file:

Desert rocks, 1920s

River rocks, 1920s

Edwardian Waterfall Dwelllers

Rocks and Snow

“Me at a dizzy height, 7/23/29”

Cliff rocks, 1920s

A lost mermaid?

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Filed under Vintage Photographs, Vintage Travel


August always sends a shiver of panic through me, though it’s not so bad now that I don’t have to return to the classroom in the middle of the month.  Still, August 1st seems to signal the impending end of summer.  Silly to start mourning summer so soon, especially because here in the South there’s another two months of hot weather, and October is just glorious here.

And after the hotter-than-hell weather we’ve had, you would think I’d be longing for fall.   Despite the heat, we’ve had a great summer so far, though we are rather tied to the homeplace at present.  Due to family responsibilities, I haven’t gotten to ramble as much as I’d like, but the nice thing about living in the mountains is that prime tourist real estate is only a short drive away.  We’ve taken advantage of  this, taking drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway (see my butterfly shots here) and playing tourist in Asheville.

I did make it a bit farther afield yesterday, driving to Tennessee to visit a favorite spot in Jonesborough, and to seek out new venues in Greeneville.  More about those adventures later.

Here are a few vintage photos, proving that the travel fun does not end with the end of summer:

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Filed under Road Trip, Vintage Photographs, Vintage Travel

Why Were They Called Flappers?

The two young women above don’t fit into our modern day idea of the 1920s Flapper, but it is possible that the term has its roots in the appearance of the miss on the right.

In the 30 or so years that I’ve been studying the history of fashion I must have read a dozen or more different explanations of where the word actually originated.  Probably the most common is the galoshes theory.  It was said the the rebellious young things of the early 1920s took to wearing their galoshes unbuckled, and so the rubber shoes flapped back and forth as the girls walked about.

That may be true, but the term was in common use in the USA by 1920, when a film starring Olive Thomas titled The Flapper was released.  And it seems that the word was used even earlier in the UK; originally it was used to mean a young prostitute, but later, by the end of the 19th century, just to mean any high spirited teenage girl.  In particular, a girl young enough that her hair was not yet worn “up.”

One of the many theories is that girls in the 1910s tended to wear big floppy bows in their long hair, and that these bows flapped when the girls walked.  So, they were referred to as flappers.  And these young teens of 1915 grew up to be the wild young things of 1920 – the flappers as we know them.

Just for fun, two more tennis players of the 1910s, Minnie Glass and Ray Yingling:


Posted by becca fritschle:

What excellent theories! This is why I love “knowing you.” You are such a treasure of information both historical and fashionable–two of my loves!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:07 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Oh, Becca, you are making me blush. I just love having a place to talk about historical fashion with people who get it. Thanks for reading and posting; it’s greatly appreciated!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:20 PM

Posted by Scott:

I like the theory that it was because of the way they danced … “flapping” their arms and legs from side to side. Fun topic, and GREAT photos! Thanks!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:48 PM

Posted by Christine H.:

Wow, how fascinating! I’ve heard the galoshes story a dozen times (even told as definitive fact by my costume history teacher), but I really like this theory. I do have a special affinity for those young girls with such large bows. 😀 I love learning little nuggets like this, thanks Lizzie!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 8:22 PM

Posted by Sarah:

This is one of those cases where all kinds of dubious theories emerge and are repeated until they become accepted as fact!

If you search using the term ‘flapper’ at the excellent British Cartoon Archive, you get plenty of results but perhaps the most interesting are the cartoons by W.H. Haselden. Check the first result here:


It is dated 1907! The later ones, from 1915 on, show the pre-1920s flapper who shares a lot of characteristics with the flapper as we know her – feckless, frivolous, flirtatious, fun loving – she just hasn’t bobbed her hair yet!

This one seems typical:


There’s also an excellent book on the subject, which is worth seeking out: “Women and the popular imagination in the twenties: flappers and nymphs” by Billie Melman. I can no longer access our local university library to check it again, but I do remember it having some useful information about the origin of the word.

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 12:29 AM

Posted by Inky:

that’s very interesting – a question I never wondered about but now am happy to find the answer to!

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 10:29 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

It is really interesting how a theory can become accepted as fact. There is no doubt that the word was used WAY before the 1920s in the UK, but not until later here in the US. The answer is out there!

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 5:47 PM


Filed under Vintage Photographs