This morning I was doing some photography for a book that Peggy is writing on wool. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken photographs for someone else, let alone tabletop items. It was stressful and wonderful at the same time. She also wanted a photo of my wool wheel in a specific place. As you can see I had more than one obstacle to deal with. He is a master of photo bomb. I had to physically remove him from the area.
Along with the photographs I took was one I had to scan.
This is a photograph of the weave room at Charlton Woolens probably taken in the mid to late 1930’s. My grandfather’s toolbox is one of many in the photograph. This photo was one of the many reasons I wanted to experience the Crompton and Knowles power looms. In doing so this photograph is so much richer. I now have an understanding of what was happening in this room, where the weavers stood, the noise. I look at this photo and think about how you must have felt the vibrations in your feet and gone home with your ears ringing. I have a better idea of the kind of job a loom mechanic had.
I’m always amazed at just how long research takes when it comes to history if you want to understand the whole story. Genealogy gives you the names and dates of the people – the who, what and where kind of thing. The photographs, when you can find them, begin to fill out the story. Then there is the living history. This is far more elusive but when you find it you can put yourself in your ancestors shoes with a little bit of imagination.
Social history is what makes studying the past come alive. It’s where you begin to understand a little about the way people thought about their world and made their life decisions. Public records give you clues into things. You begin with the big stuff – politics and religion and work your way down to minutia. Things like what were they wearing and how did it affect how they moved and did their work. You look at how men and women treated each other, how economics made or broke their lives.
I think there’s been an injustice served on the American people in not teaching our history in a way that is accessible to everyone. I think a lot of the turmoil that we see is a lack of understanding of what has gone on before. I feel like people are making up things as they go along in a way that is only self-serving. Their knowledge is so narrow. Maybe because social media has taken over our lives and rather than read a book we read twitter every morning. I think the idea of knowing our history has been lost. It’s too bad because some of the greatest stories ever told are true.
I plug along learning new things about old things everyday. I’ll continue to put myself into situations where I can understand what was going on or the work involved. One year I dug my garden plot completely by hand so I could feel what kind of work went into putting in a kitchen garden for the women of 1840. It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to do it.
The real goal is putting the family history into words with understanding. Not just any story, a story that makes these people human. One that makes you understand that the world could be just as scary a place to them as it sometimes is to us. History repeats itself, over and over, but unless you know something about it you don’t recognize it when it happens.