Discarded Treasures

Tag writer: Jessie Magyar, Post-Baccalaureate Intern for Museum Education, SCMA

I see books. I see old, second-hand books being sold on a table.

What do you see that makes you say that?

Well, with the one book in the front, the cover looks like it is peeling off. Also, the pages have this yellowish tint to them and none of the books have their jackets, which makes me think they are second-hand. The way that they are arranged too-yes, these are most definitely not brand new books. In the bottom left, I see the sign that says “10 cents each,” which tells me that they are being sold, as opposed to strewn about on a table in someone’s home.

What do you think is going on?

I don’t know if this is a bookshop. It reminds me more of a flea market or yard sale- the kind that my father used to drag me to when I was little. I remember seeing tables much like this one, where people would pick up a book, flip to a page or two, and casually toss it aside as their eyes were already scanning the next table of “treasures”. I know what this scene would smell like: musty, moldy, a little dusty, but still reminiscent of that wonderful crisp, clean scent of fresh paper.

What about your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, what will they see?

Will they also see books, or will they see artifacts from a time before Kindles, nooks, and iPads?

Will they know what a book feels like? Smells like?

Will they think 10 cents is much too expensive for these “treasures”?

When students visit our museum in 100 years and see this painting, what memories will come up for them?

Image Information: John Frederick Peto, American (1854 - 1907). Discarded Treasures, ca. 1904. Oil on canvas. 22 x 40 in.Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts. Purchased with the Drayton Hillyer Fund

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