Light and Shadow in the Archives

On Saturday I stopped by Heritage Hall, the archives at Calvin University, where I work as the curator. It is housed in the Hekman Library on the main floor. The lights on the main floor of the library were off when I first arrived, which meant that the main lights in the archives reading room were off. I left them off because I was going to my office to get a book.

The mix of light and shadow caught my eye. Light coming in from windows. The few lights on in the back area of the archives. Here are two views. One looks towards the back of the archives, with light coming in from my office and windows. My office is on the right; on the left are desks where volunteers and student employees work. The other image looks through the reading room out into the library, with light from windows in the distance and a couple of table lights that I turned on for the effect.

Here’s another image of the reading room, looking through the desk area where archival assistants work. If you compare the image of the reading room above (right) to the one below, you can see that the lights in the library were on in one but not the other.

Inspired, I moved around the archives a bit, looking to make similar kinds of images, playing with sight lines and light and shadow. Here are two images of the room where the university and seminary collections are kept. You’re looking into an area where there is a mix of archival material on the left and a corner with supplies and publications related to the archives on the right.

I also did some images on a smaller scale, of small spaces and objects. Some of these are from my office and the area beside it. Others are from the room that holds our manuscript collections and rare books.

Here’s a couple more images from the manuscript/rare book room, one about sight lines and one a close up of a book with an interesting cover.

The last two images are from the back part of the hallway in the archives. You can see it in the distance in the image on the left in the first set of images above. One image is of a set of shelves with large photographs and maps (also the cover image of the blog post). The other is a work station used by one of the archival assistants.

The building was dark and empty when I arrived. The library was open when I left, but there was only one patron, a student, as far as I could see. The Peet’s coffee shop was closed. There probably were a couple of student library workers, behind the circulation desk or working in the stacks, but I did not see them as I left. So I did not make any images with people.

The images have a calm, peaceful feel. It is a workspace at rest, over the weekend, as were the people who work in it. Even me. I stopped in for the book, spent a couple hours photographing, and never got around to reading the book.

4 replies to “Light and Shadow in the Archives

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