There are only 100 or so images in the state's new digital collection of foodways photos from north central Washington, but the photographs contain countless details for agricultural historians and culinary scholars. Researchers will note Billie Legg's apple-picking pouch (and the one-legged ladder on which she perched in 1924), the elongated watermelons halved for a 1907 party in Omak, Wash., and the coveralls worn by an early 20th century grain crew, posed on sacks in front of a hill of chaff.
"I think it's really interesting to see photographs of orchards in Chelan County," says Washington State Library project manager Evan Robb. "I thought it was especially interesting this year with the bumper apple crop."
"And the project they came up with was to digitize materials related to food production," Robb explains.
While making Washington farming photos available to researchers around the world is one goal of the project, Robb says it's also intended to draw attention to "kind of hidden archives and special collections," and train small libraries in the art of digitizing, so they can upload more pictures of ballgames played in sheep meadows - among other photogenic subjects.
"This is just a smattering," Robb says of the images included in the collection.
Robb hopes the collection's audience includes Washingtonians who grew up picking apples and eating watermelons.
"We want the public to identify people and add their own stories," he says.