I’ve missed days like today. It wasn’t an especially extraordinary day. It wasn’t even all that eventful, but it’s the kind of day that I can look back on and say “I love days like today.”
I slept in today. A lot. I’m talking 12 hours of sleep. Do you know what that feels like? It feels like heaven. I woke up AFTER NOON. That never happens. Even though I set my alarm for 10:08 (my birthday, I’m weird like that), I shut it up and went back to sleep. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just wake up when I wasn’t tired anymore. That time, apparently, is 1:30PM. I think the last time I slept that late was because I was confused by the time zones. It was wonderful.
Anyway, so I woke up and dilly dallied around my room for a bit - I poked around Flickr, caught on my feeds, the usual. The perfect Sunday morning, I think. If I had been thinking I would have made some chai to go with my banana bread, but alas, you live and you learn…
I headed down to The Sun at 4:30PM for the weekly 5PM edit meeting. I wasn’t particularly excited to go down because, to be honest, I’m getting kind of tired of the routine of it all and we’re at that awkward point between editorial boards where I’m pretty much just a lame duck so I feel kind of useless.
The good thing about this interim, though, is that I can focus on some of the cool projects that I’ve wanted to do all year but was too busy managing the day-to-day issues to really focus on many big picture things. There are a lot of things I’ve had on my list - things like figuring out a better system for storing our photos because right now it’s not very searchable. It’s a bit of a mess. The one project that I’ve been dying to do, though, is sifting through and digitizing the many, many thousands of negatives we have filed away around the office. I’d been thinking about it for a while now, but I’d never really had the time or the energy to take some sort of action.
I finally did today. I dusted off the old negative scanner, dug out the old software, and poked around the web looking for updates and drivers so that I could getting working on our computers. After a bit of trial and error, I finally fed in my first strip of negatives. It was just a crappy one that had been lying on the desk for ages, but I figured if there was something wrong with the scanner and it decided to eat or otherwise ruin the negative, losing this one wouldn’t be a huge deal. By golly, it worked! I was so excited!
In between editing photos for tomorrow’s paper, I poked through the oldest negatives we have - beginning in 1967 - until I found one that would be fun to scan in. I decided to look for a photo from around today’s date in 1969, so it would be a “40 years ago today” photo. I wasn’t able to find one for the 16th, but the 17th actually had some photos from a protest outside of Day Hall. Perfect!
I picked a strip from that series and loaded it into the scanner. About 15 minutes later I had one strip scanned in and saved to my new “Scanned Negatives” folder where the digitized archive photos will soon live. Matt, equally excited to see this project beginning to see the light of day, began to dig through the old prints from the 1990s. The candids were amazing and so full of life! This campus looked like a completely different place. It was sunny. People were happy. There seemed to be a better sense of community but at the same time people were very unafraid of being individuals. Fascinating, if you ask me, but the 1990s will have to wait. I want to get through the 60s and 70s first since those negatives would deteriorate sooner than the 90s.
I’ve mentioned before that I love “artifacts” and I think photos are a very big part of that. I would love to spend days and days in the basements of museums just combing through the photos they have filed away for safe keeping. So much history! Luckily for me, I have my own mini museum to play in at The Sun and apart from Matt and I, no one really ever looks through the negatives. Jackpot!
So anyway, after scanning in that one strip of negatives I realized that I would need to come up with some sort of system before I began to scan large quantities of negatives into the computer. Since we don’t have any sort of record or database of exactly what’s in the negatives archives, it’s really just a lot of manual sifting through each drawer or binder. And there are a lot of them. I’d rather focus on major events and things, but at the same time I think being able to have the more candid “life at Cornell” style photos available to us would be equally valuable. Though, I suppose that could just be my own personal nerdiness. I put the scanning on hold until I could figure out some sort of method because otherwise, it will indeed be madness. Instead, I wrote a blog post about my new project.
I ended up staying at The Sun until about 1:30 in the morning. And this is the part that got me thinking about how much I’ve missed days like today, because as I was walking to the parking lot to load my camera gear into my car and head home for the night, I remembered back to this time last year when I was just beginning my term as Photo Editor and would stay at the paper until 1:30am a few nights a week, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Because I was caught up in something that made me excited and because I was working on something that I thought would make the department better, make the paper better, or just make things a little easier. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do things like that because it didn’t take long for me to get so bogged down in firefighting and routine and pretty much abandon progress in favor of survival. It’s a shame, really.
As I walked to my car the first overnight flurries began to fall and I drove home with my window cracked and took in the wonderful silence and calm of Ithaca at 1:30AM in the winter. It’s the days like this that I’m going to miss next year. Hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill the exciting projects part, but making my way home from a long night of doing exactly what makes me happiest because I wanted to do it, not because I had to do it, with many hours of homework ahead but perfectly content in the peace and quiet and serenity of an early morning snow flurry with crisp air and a clear, starry sky where the only signs of life are the lights coming from the windows of those burning the midnight oil in the warmth of their apartments? Only in Ithaca, only at Cornell, and only as a Sunnie.