Librarians Come Alive!

Velma Jane Moore, Winifred Barnstead, and Winnifred Reynolds on the Steps of the Toronto Public Library, 1921

The subject of this post is the transformation of this photograph and what that transformation represents. 

One of my favorite blogs is Val Erde’s Colouring the Past. Val is an artist who digitally restores and colors vintage and antique photographs, displaying them in a before-and-after format on her blog. As I’ve learned from following her posts, she researches as much as she can about each photograph, including the studio, the photographer, and the subjects (depending on the information on the photograph), as well as what can be gleaned from the photograph itself, such as clothing and hair styles, props if taken in a studio, and setting if taken outside a studio.

Val’s colored renditions of old photographs remind me of the work of a good translator of poetry and fiction. It takes a high level of skill and sensitivity to remain true to the letter of the original while conveying its spirit using a different language.

Val’s digitally-colored photographs have a three-dimensional quality that I absolutely love, so when she offered a free coloring to followers of her blog, I immediately put up my hand. The photograph Val colored for me accompanied the first blog post I wrote about my grandmother Velma Jane Moore’s move to Toronto in 1919 at the age of twenty-two: In Search of Velma Brown [MOORE]’s Toronto Days. Having tried teaching for a year after graduating with distinction from Dalhousie University, Velma has moved a thousand miles from her parents’ farm in rural Nova Scotia to train as a librarian with one of the pioneers of Canadian librarianship, Winifred Barnstead, the woman seated just above her. Also training to be a librarian is her lifelong friend Winnifred Reynolds, the young woman in the green coat. The three of them are sitting on the steps of the Toronto Public Library. 

Given what I have come to learn about this time in Velma’s life, the original photograph needed the hand, eye, and spirit of an artist to truly represent what Velma’s Toronto days meant to her and bring them to life for the family she left behind. Thank you for this, Val.