Since the history I work on “for a living” is at least 1300 years distant from our own time, I am mildly obsessed with the photographs I encounter when researching my family. They are such a tangible connection to the past–to my past–and I really can’t get enough of them.
The photo above is from circa 1855. It is the Crown Hotel, on the corner of Prince’s Street and West Register Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The hotel was run by Captain John Miller and his wife Robina, my great-great-great grandparents on my dad’s side. At the time the photo was taken, Captain Miller’s son George, who would later be the first of his family to venture across the ocean to North America, was a young boy of 10.
Photographs are not static to me. I can look at the photo of the Crown Hotel and clearly imagine George Miller as a lad, running out the front door of the hotel and into the high street on his way to school. I can imagine him playing alone in the rooms of the hotel, maybe even getting scolded for running inside or for being where he wasn’t meant to be. I look at that photo of the Crown and think, “My family is inside there right now. When this picture was taken they were there.” And so as long as I have these photos, I have family–however distant in time.
And what deep comfort there is in that.