Online, as part of our daily labor here on The Atlantic, I often find myself at the Library of Congress searching through hundreds of thousands of photographs of all kinds of things. At a time when algorithms are supposed to be reducing serendipity to the opposite of a chance encounter, I find the blunt search tools at the LOC constantly spit out wonderfully unexpected things.
For Alexander Furnas’ story yesterday about power, privacy, and data tracking, I wanted to find a photograph of a bunch of dolls, so I searched for “doll shop.” Scrolling down the list, I didn’t find what I wanted, but one title for a group of photos caught my eye: “Old men making toys in a shop maintained for their benefit, apparently by society women.” The record told me George Grantham Bain made these pictures in 1915. The extended description read, “Photographs show men cutting animals and dolls from wood. Women purchasing Christmas gifts. Also, teddy bear factory.” There is no more information attached to the record, but who really needs more than TEDDY BEAR FACTORY, really.
See more. [Images: Library of Congress]