Caught Our Eyes: A Wintry Mystery

Okay, I admit it. California-born and raised, I begin to shiver when the temperature dips much below 40 degrees, as it has this past week in Washington, D.C. That’s probably why my eye was drawn to this photo, which reference librarian Jon Eaker added to our “Caught Our Eyes” staff sharing wall.

Snow, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, between 1915 and 1923. //

Snow, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, between 1915 and 1923. //

Although it eloquently communicates wintry conditions, we know very little about the photo. It’s from the glass negatives produced by the Harris & Ewing firm, which was based in Washington, D.C., and focused on local happenings. And from the glimpse of city in the background, it was probably taken in Washington, D.C. But where? And when? Was it in the wake of a big snowfall? Or–given the seeming lack of snow surrounding this igloo-like pile–is it demonstrating particularly efficient snow clearing?

I tried one of our favorite methods of searching for clues–I used the “browse neighboring images” feature in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog to look at Harris & Ewing negatives that are numbered and filed close to this one. But, other than some icicles and wintry street scene, it didn’t yield any epiphanies.

Selecting "Browse neighboring images by call number" from the description of the snow photo yields this display.

Selecting “Browse neighboring images by call number” from the description of the snow photo yields this display.

We invite you to look for clues — or (as I did) simply to fantasize about how you would make this snow structure cozy on a cold day!

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