Thursday, March 10, 2016

Are we losing our pictorial heritage...?

I recently posted the image below on my Facebook page. It’s one of the more elaborately displayed collections of family portraits I’ve seen in some time. I was visiting a musician friend of mine in Denver. It might have gone unnoticed had he not made mention that it was time to “put some light on his people”.

Every evening, he turns on the display lights in a glass enclosed china cabinet. I remember growing up in a time where every family had a prominently displayed china cabinet in their dining room. This was where the family’s prized possessions, and sometimes documents were stored. Eric’s heirloom China cabinet has been repurposed and now contains the collection of family portraits pictured. What is most noteworthy is the age of the portraits. In this cabinet and the walls beside it are six generations of family members.

While some are copies of photographs in other family member’s collections, quite a few are the originals, including one of his great great grandmother. As to be expected, Eric could easily point out who each person was, and the relationships to the other images on display. Then came the stories. Some experienced first hand. Others, you could tell, have been passed down for more than a couple generations.

This open display of heritage is a reminder of what seems to be less and less common these days. Most of my generation had something like this in our homes growing up. At some point almost all of us detested what was frequently referred to as the “mugshot wall”, only to grow up and create our own once we established ourselves in our own homes. It started me to wonder, what happened to these family collections of photographs that span generations. Certainly they did not go the way of the mobile phone. Somebody in the family must be acting as custodian of those images.

What about your family’s images. Who is the keeper of your family’s pictorial heritage?

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