Forgotten or forgone?

Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.

Susan Sontag

Last July I was standing in an op shop in Greytown, which is sort of up from Wellington. Wendy and I had headed out for the day, driven over the pass (bit scary), had an excellent lunch of pumpkin soup with a cousin and uncle. With said cousin in tow we  hit up the local op shops.

There was no dawdling, cousin needed to be dropped back for school pick up and we needed to head back over the pass before it got too late. The three of us are seasoned op shoppers. We can swoop in, disperse to our areas of interest (me = vintage linen, kitchen stuff, vinyl, books) and with eagle eye know if there is anything for us. The last shop of the day, dusty counter of a shop crammed full I spotted two boxes of lantern slides.

Lantern slide box

People

plane

I didn’t actually care what was on them, there was never any question that they weren’t coming home with me. The only time I have come across lantern slides in my professional life, they had been carefully wrapped in tissue, neatly stored in acid free boxes. Appraised and important. These two boxes were discarded, definitely neglected and forgotten. There was a light dusting of green mould on one.

A few months ago I got them out and decided to try and give them life. I’ve been studying them at my kitchen table in the mornings and posting my favourites on instagram. I’m fascinated by what I have been able to identify by just the images, the age/ model of the plane & cars, what people are wearing (or in a few, not wearing – more on that later) but frustrated by lack of anything approximating provenance.

Lantern Slide #4 - Anonymous Child with FlowerLantern Slide #2 - Anonymous Woman Latern Slide #6 - Anonymous Woman

Most recently I’ve started examining my discomfort about having taken them out of New Zealand (if anyone wants to help me unpack that one let me know) and having posted them on social media without attribution. I own the slides, but do I have the moral right to post those images? Without knowing how these images stopped being part of a family collection, how do I know they weren’t disposed of as a conscious un-remembering?

There are some parallel lines forming about the right to be forgotten, and a new story emerging. The boxes and their contents have been transformed by their participation in my story, my friendship with Wendy and our shared meaning. They have been altered, digitised, discussed. The meaning of that is still revealing.

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About Michaela Hart

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