Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Buried Treasure

Cameras and photos, books and magazines, radios, toys, etc. can clutter an attic, tell the story of a life, or decorate a newlywed's budget apartment. Is it just dusty old stuff to you or is it buried treasure?

I often tell people that our house is decorated in a combination of early College Apartment and Late Salvation Army. I hope that when friends come to visit they see evidence of creative lives well lived and assume that each oddly placed object that doesn't seem to match anything holds a story all it's own. That would be a correct assumption. Sometimes the story is about whatever happened to distract us from actually finding a better place to put said object, but that is the story of our lives.

From time to time as our daughters have grown we have used the objects we've gathered to tell them the story of our lives or of others we have known and loved and give them an appreciation for history. They knew exactly how my mother sewed clothes for me because I used the same cast iron Singer sewing maching (no zig zag stitch included) to sew clothes for them. They saw the young woman who would become my grandmother as I scanned my grandfather's 3x5 black & white negatives and saved them to my computer's hard drive for retouching and archiving later. They followed us, sometimes impatiently, as we wandered through flea markets and antique stores, recognizing items that filled our childhood homes, occasionally adding something to our collection.

I've been gathering vintage cameras and photography equipment for years. I love picking up an old camera, feeling the weight of it in my hands, looking at it from the photographer's point of view. I can see all the steps  a photographer took to record babies' first smiles, first days of school and high school graduations. Some cameras in my collection once belonged to family members, some I've picked up just because I liked the look of them.  My older daughter remembers watching me develop pictures of her in my homemade darkroom using an enlarger that had belonged to my father.

As older relatives have passed away and family members have downsized, our collection has grown and we are making choices about what we really want to keep and what must go to someone else who will value it and make a place for it in their home. We're getting ready to open a shop of vintage items on Etsy. I've been busy for weeks now, sorting and photographing things we'll be offering for sale, writing descriptions that tell their story and getting ready to let them go. Some we've had all our lives, some were just passing through. The shop will be ready to go public sometime in the next week or so. I hope you'll check it out and share it with all your friends, too.

In the meantime, here's a photo of an old type tray I picked up at a flea market years ago. I started displaying a few small souvenirs and things in it and slowly filled it up. Each one tells a story, but they don't take up much space. Feel free to leave a comment and ask me about them and maybe I'll tell you the story in my next blog entry.


  1. Donna - My mom and I have started going through boxes upon boxes of things to keep, sell or donate. I should restate that - Mom is already done. I'm procrastinating. I have so much stuff.

    As I get older and start to become less attached to things (I think it's because I don't have children), I've found it easier to give things up than I used to.

    I'm keeping the rubber ducks, though. I won't part with the ducks!

  2. Love it! I can't wait to see what's in your shop. The little birds? in the upper left corner of the middle section intrigue me! And what's on that film?

    The word "Mosaic" at the top reminds me of Jeri Taylor's book with that title. Have you ever read it? It is about Captain Janeway's life/how she became who she is and all the little pieces that make up the "mosaic" that she is.

    That's kind-of the theme you have going here. :)

  3. Very interesting. I remember when we moved here to New Brunswick after living in our old house in St. John's, Newfoundland where we lived for sixteen years. How much stuff we accumulated to tell the stories of our lives. We've been here in NB for 18 years.

  4. Donna,thank you for a wonderful blog. I think I mentioned to you that I'm in the process of "de-cluttering" in hopes of creating outer and inner order.What an emotional experience it's been.For me, it's also been an exercise in faith;that I've learned to move on and that it's OK to be "empty" of things.The memories fill you up.Thanks again.