Hatred of the delicate

It’s funny how once something is damaged it can never be the same. Not actual funny, but the funny that comes with a statement like “It’s funny how the only thing guaranteed in life is death.” This statement isn’t funny at all. Permanence is never funny.

Going into special collections was a terrible experience. From the gloves you have to wear to the way the office worker runs over to tell you that you can’t lift the photos off the table. It is not that I don’t appreciate preservation; It’s just that I would rather not come in contact with it.

There is nothing gentle about my hands. Delicate things make me uncomfortable. This is why I avoid holding things like newly born children.

Standing over the very large photos as they lay on the table I felt as though I was back home. With my mother and sisters staring at me as my mother says “Stop looking at the baby like that, do you think he’s going to bite you?” while my sisters stand in the background shaking their heads in disappointment. They do not understand that my hands were not made for the delicate.

Looking at the Cowin photos was a process that I many times wanted to cut short. The office worker and I stand at opposite sides of the table, we look at each other to make sure we are on the same page and lift the large photo out of the box in unison. We place it on the table and she raises the flap. I grab the white sheet that is laid across the picture by its opposite edges and slowly lift up, making sure to not drag it across the photo, and place it into the box. She holds the flap up and we both stare at the image. I say “Okay” or nod my head in fake satisfaction as I lift the white sheet out of the box and place it back over the picture. She closes the flap, and we go on to the next one. We do this 6 times. Then one by one, in unison, we move all the pictures back into the box. Through out this process I felt the fear of dropping a newborn baby.

The images were not very interesting to me but I stared at each of them as though they were. I did not want the work that we put into viewing the photos to be in vein. Some of the photos had ridges on them. I found this funny. After all this precaution the photos were still damaged, and there was no coming back. The delicate was destroyed.

Looking at the dolls from Olivia Parker’s Lost Objects I saw both delicateness and the permanence of damage.

There was one doll in particular that annoyed me. It had a crumbling forehead, white eyes, it’s arms were reaching out, and it was looking right at me. Special collections as a whole annoyed me. Being able to touch the art but not really being able to touch the art annoyed me. But this doll in particular with its broken face, that was falling a part and that was delicate was reaching out for me to touch it. I cannot explain how much this annoyed me.

I wondered how all these dolls looked untouched and damaged at the same time. I thought about how the damage on the dolls was permanent. I thought about how this permanence was captured on camera and reproduced into another delicate thing. So now the photo held double the amount of delicate. I thought about how the most permanent thing these dolls will ever experience is their destruction. I thought about how easy it would be to damage these dolls, to scratch a picture, to drop a baby.

I have never liked the delicate.

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