Friday, February 25, 2022

Is Time a Flat Circle?

circular photograph print of a man crossing the street in front of the Hanover Inn, circa 1901Photograph albums of Dartmouth campus, especially those from the 19th and early 20th century, always captivate me. I get caught up in the sameness and yet profound difference that each image represents. In some, the large, mature elm trees along the green droop down and create a sense of shelter and shade. In others, the rough and dirty streets of downtown Hanover make me wonder how anyone ever kept their clothes clean for more than an hour.

Today, I leafed through a photo album that was compiled by Merrill Shurtleff, a member of the class of 1892. Along with the usual photographs of college students goofing around or playing sports on the green, there were a number of circular photographs. My curiosity was piqued by the shape of these prints, and I soon discovered by reading the catalog record that the images were taken with a newly-patented Kodak Number 2 camera, also known as a Brownie. Given that these weren't manufactured until 1901 at the earliest, my guess is that Shurtleff must have taken these photos during a trip back to his alma mater.

This photo of the Hanover Inn, with a rather fancy elderly gentlemen crossing the street in front of it, is an excellent example of the permanence of some institutions and the ephemerality of others. To explore Merrill Shurtleff's photo album for yourself, come to Special Collections and ask to see Iconography 1627.