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. 

31 thoughts on “Librarians Come Alive!

  1. A lovely photo in both versions (b&w and colour), and how well you describe Val’s particular talent. The coloured version even captures the weather, drawing attention to how well-wrapped the women are on a clear but cold day. I can feel the chill air.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Liz, I’m new to your blog. I work in a library and love this picture of early librarians. I like to think they were as fun and creative as the librarians I work with! Definitely cool dressers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comments! The research I’ve done on my grandmother’s librarianship training in Toronto following the end of WWI has been really fascinating. She worked with some very accomplished women who made significant contributions to the field.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Val’s work is wonderful. Her dedication, research and patience are outstanding. She has done a beautiful job of your photo. I don’t remember much about the dresses my grandmothers wore, except that the fabrics were soft and the colours muted. My paternal grandmother always wore a work or older dress while she did chores and cooked in the morning. After lunch she would change into a so-called good dress.

    Liked by 1 person

Thanks for stopping by!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s