Remember the Fotomat?

July 28, 2011

Remember the olden days when you had to wait 3 grueling days to get your precious photos developed? Remember the poor person stuck in that Fotomat booth in the grocery store parking lot?

I went to the Archives yesterday for a little light reading from our Historic Structures Report (to confirm whether or not the rumors are true that the Penn Museum had the first air conditioner ever installed in a public space.) Whenever I venture up there, Archivist Alex Pezzati always manages to distract me with one cool thing after another.

Old photo bags possibly from the 1940s

This time, he had an interesting, old photo bag on his desk and I had to ask what it was. Before I knew it, Alex was climbing a veritable rock wall of boxes in the storage closet to get at a box full of old photography equipment from the 1930s. One of the boxes had several small brown envelopes containing all the myriad screws, metal gadgets and parts necessary to operate a camera back in the day. As I unpacked the boxes, one of the researchers across from me said, “Wow, makes you appreciate what used to go into taking a picture back then.”

Tiny flash bulbs

It certainly does! I took about 50 photos of the light bulbs alone with my snappy Nikon D5000 and I will probably delete 40 of them.

Watson Kintner's Field Range Finder

Alex pointed out a label under the flap of a field range finder that made me realize I had been poking around the property of Watson Kintner whose films I have been working with for the past couple years. I know it was just psychological, but my fingers buzzed with the energy of the people and places whose flickering images he’d captured in his travelogue films all over the world.

It’s always an adventure in the Archives.