From the collection of Celina McDonald Seitz we get this picture taken right after her 8th-grade graduation from the Montauk School, standing alongside her schoolmates Maria Grimes Short and Joyce Miller Talley. It’s an important day. The girls are dressed up, holding their diplomas tied with ribbons.
When an archives receives a photograph with the identities of its “sitters” revealed, it’s a bonus day for record-keeping. Celina identified the people in every image she donated to the Montauk Library. Additionally, by writing out the year and event, Celina gave us the “who, what, where, when, and why” of this moment stopped in time.
There are clues used by archivists and curators to place an image in its appropriate time period if nothing is known about it. Background scenery (is that building still standing? Was it there in 1945?), cars (which make and year?), and of course, clothing, are a huge help in dating photographs. The “ruffles” on Celina’s dress were a fashion trend in 1945, borrowed by clothing designers from aprons that were also popular at the time.
Celina McDonald Seitz died in 2017. At her funeral, her granddaughter reminisced about Celina giving her a ride home from school every day in a car sporting an enormous, outrageously ridiculous flower attached to the antenna. Celina put it there “so that you can always find me,” she told her granddaughter. Her friends made fun, but as she exited the school building each afternoon, that flower was the first thing she’d see. Her grandmother always showed up. Every day. And that is worth a second diploma, indeed.