The Bessie Miller Photographic Collection at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is group of personal photographs including scrapbooks, snapshots, and studio portraits. The collection is named for its donor, about whom the museum has no biographical information and there are no personal manuscripts included in the collection to provide hints as to who the individuals in the photos might be. None of the photos are labeled with any information regarding who the subjects are or when or where they were taken.
Despite the anonymity of the individuals in the photos, the collection is remarkable in its representation of everyday family life. Like so many of our personal photograph collections, the Bessie Miller Collection is diverse, intriguing, sometimes seemingly random, and uncompromisingly personal. The following pages attempt to provide a glimpse into the world captured in one woman’s personal photograph collection.
The photo above has been separated from the page of a scrapbook in the Bessie Miller Collection, and represents the moments in family life frequently captured in the collection.
A Call to Action for Preservation
The Bessie Miller Collection represents so many of our personal photo collections not only in its familiar themes and content, but also in the fact that it is not documented and has been stored in a way that is detrimental to its preservation. We have not only lost the informational content, but are at risk of losing the visual content due to deterioration as well. This group of images presents a prime example of why we should each organize, label, and properly store our personal photo collections so that future generations will be able not only to enjoy the images but understand who, what, when, and why they are important. Further, it underscores the value of digitization as a means to preserve images that may otherwise be lost in the future.
Contents of the Collection
Selected images from the Bessie Miller Collection are presented as follows:
- Scrapbook Page 1
- Scrapbook Page 2
- Scrapbook Page 3
- Scrapbook Page 4
- Family Photos
- School Group Photos
- Special Occasions
- Studio Portraits