Left: John Losee’s slide diaries.
I am the custodian of my grampa John Losee’s color slide collection, which numbers over 7,600 individual slides. One of the most unique subjects details his years as an apple grower in Red Hook, NY in the 1930s and 40s. Although family snap-shots do make up a great many of the images in the collection, he was just as likely to photograph an insect or rock or landscape that struck his scientific sensibilities. It didn’t surprise me, as I indexed the images, to put any given shot from a family vacation into the categories “archaeology” or “geology” – not many families can claim such excitement!
I spent the last couple years indexing all of his slides and categorizing them as well so I might make interesting slide shows of them. It wouldn’t have been such an easy task but for grampa Losee being so well organized. Some might say “obsessive/compulsive” or “anal-retentive” but I think he was just an engineer who ended up having to be an apple farmer and later a teacher who loved to take pictures. He kept a tiny notebook with him anytime he brought his cameras with him and jotted down the date, the number of the shot, the subject matter and the camera settings and filters used to capture the image. At the top of most pages he also noted when he sent the rolls to Kodak and when he got them back.
Right: This hand-made storage box had only a few hand-bound glass slides when I got it, most of them were commercial paper slides.
When I began work on the slides in May of 2009, they (and my granfather Hermans’ slides) had been in the attic of my garage freezing in winter and baking in summer for the better part of a decade. Many were in carousels (all of the Hermans’ slides were in 40 of them!) but most were stored either in the little yellow Kodak boxes they came in, in special plastic or metal slide storage boxes or in DIY boxes grampa made himself, like the one seen above.
Left: My 21st century archival storage system for the slides with Grampa Losee’s markings.
I decided that if I wanted to print them, scan them, share them, I would have to organize them. I labored over whether I would destroy a part of the collection if I moved them from their original locations were grampa intended them to be. This was solved by marking their original location in my database. I also felt he would really, really like the sharp, uber-organized way I would be able to pull any image I wanted quickly and easily by putting them all in one place and making the database for them. He had already given them catalog numbers, himself, so organizing them in this way was easy. The new system is working like a charm! I have a photo of grampa Losee sitting in front of a slide-projector screen hanging on my wall in my work room that looks down at me while I work on them. I think he’d approve.