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Pictures and Their Stories at the National Book Festival

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My colleagues and I had a wonderful time talking with visitors to our table at the National Book Festival last Saturday. We brought copies of some of our favorite photographs, prints, and drawings, focusing on those for which we knew at least a piece of the story behind them. And we literally put the story behind them (on the back) to invite deduction and spur conversation about what each picture showed.

This one excited a lot of speculation. Where was it taken? What happened?

Photo by Harris & Ewing.
Photo by Harris & Ewing. View description (spoiler alert!): http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2008002100/?loclr=blogpic

Guesses ranged from Europe in World War I to a southern city during the Civil War, and from bombings to earthquakes.

For the big reveal, we had only to turn around, because in July of 1913, the brick building across the street from the spot where we sat in the Washington Convention Center had fallen victim to a violent wind storm.

NBF2014LStreet.marked
Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, conversing with visitors at the National Book Festival. Behind her is L Street, where the B.F. Saul Building formerly stood. Photo by Barbara Orbach Natanson, 2014 Aug. 30.

As we gazed from the picture to the cityscape outside the window and back again, we pondered the changes the neighborhood had undergone. We also talked about what it must have been like to photograph that disastrous scene with a bulky camera.  And we all marveled anew at the interesting stories to which pictures can lead us.

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