Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Concentration: the cards left on the board

As we have noted before, some archival work and historical sleuthing is really just a slightly modified game of Concentration--the modification being that there is no guarantee a match exists for every card on your board.

Our present case in point is a set of individual portrait photographs of students in the University of Oregon Medical School, all from a folder labeled "1941." Our predecessors had assumed that the entire set was no more or less than the Class of 1941, perhaps in their freshman year (since the men are wearing dress clothes and not mortar boards and robes).

Were it that easy! There are too many photographs for the bundle to be solely 1941 graduates, and there are no women, though three graduated in 1941. So, for the past few weeks, a game of Concentration has been played out on the counter top next to my desk. Every match was a small triumph that could sustain me through the day. It was a great run, but now it has ended. The remaining five photos are left with that terrible distinction "Unidentified"--which means they may never be used again (how many of us have a use for images of the nameless?)

So, I turn to my last lifeline, "ask the audience." These earnest young men all look terribly familiar to me, since I've been studying their faces for days. Do they, by any chance, look familiar to you, dear reader?

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