Mr. King's Timeless Treasures
AKC Archives: There's no time like the present to ensure a future for your past.
By AKC Archivist Norma Rosado-Blake
Even by his own admission, Mr. King is an older gentleman.
In fact, that was part of the reason for his telephone call. He wanted to pass on his possessions to some person or organization that would appreciate and care for them.
Photo by Deo Paul
Photo from Bergman collection:
It began with a phone call.
You see, his mother, Faye Bergman, was a Boxer breeder and judge from the 1940s to 1960s in Southern California. He started our conversation by reminiscing about her, prompting me to ask if he had “followed in her footsteps.” He politely said no, adding that the hundreds of Boxers that passed through his mother’s kennels were enough for him.
Although he had not pursued the life of a fancier, I felt his appreciation for the sport was genuine, which I found endearing. He said he had several photographs his mother had framed and maintained in her home until her death. He inherited these photographs, but knew he, too, would have to pass them along. He contacted me in hopes of finding a new home for them. I agreed to accept the donation, and there it was—one of the first breeder collections for the archives. I was thrilled.
It was an ordinary day when the package arrived. It had been several weeks since my conversation with Mr. King, so I didn’t recognize the name on the package. As I opened the manila envelope, I recalled our conversation and remembered, “Oh, yes, the Boxer breeder.”
I sifted through the 20 or so black-and-white photographs, which included the proverbial win shots and whimsical candids, and I found them both amusing and thought-provoking. The photographs included an aerial shot of her kennels, Boxers playing, win shots, and Boxers with children. It was a very small collection, but it told me a lot about Faye Bergman.
The photos convey Mrs. Bergman’s commitment, accomplishments, and personal life. That the collection contained only photographs made it very special because photos are some of the most dynamic pieces of information; they are visual clues to the lives of breeders, handlers, judges, and owners. If you gaze at the photographs without looking at the detail, you are missing a lot.
The detail in the photograph captures a large portion of the entire story. Not only are the details important to the story, but the photograph helps the reader to remember. A photograph evokes memories, emotions, and feelings, which is what makes it such a compelling piece of history. Photos capture life for one second in time. And time, which is self-evident, is fleeting; it moves forward without any bias, emotions, or care. Perhaps this is why photographs have become such an integral part of dogdom: They capture a moment when a champion is at his best.
Conversely, other collections include only documents that record the lives of purebred dogs and people, but in a different way. It is, again, the small details that tell the broader story. It is about the handwritten items on a memorandum or personal notes on a meeting notebook. All of these details give us clues as to decisions made throughout fancy about pertinent issues such as breed standard amendments, choice in best in show and policy changes. However the detail is conveyed—whether through photographs or documents—one thing is clear: When it comes to purebred dogs, the fancy’s commitment, dedication, and passion are genuine. It is collections like these that remind me of the blood, sweat, and tears expended by our fancy.
The Living Memory
Beginning a new collection is pure pleasure. I find myself smiling and wondering about the people and dogs. Where are they from? What was their relationship like? It is almost magical, as if they are sharing their lives with me, which is a privilege. The collections represent a lifetime of collecting and saving memories. Some may call them pack rats, but I call them custodians for the living memory. They protect, save, and pass on their infinite bound of memories to me for future generations. And it is my job to create some order where there may not be any. This is a challenge at times, but it is part of the life of an archivist: to make sense of something that, on the surface, may not make any sense or have any order.
Such collections really transcend the aesthetic and historic value and convey human and canine value. This is why it is so important to protect and save your club and individual memories. I believe preserving and saving photographs and documents is an ongoing process of maintaining connection with someone or something from the past. I want to share another story about a collection that illustrates this.
While a project archivist at the University of Pennsylvania, I had an opportunity to work on a collection from Edward W. Clark, a wealthy businessman from Philadelphia who lived from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. As was common in those days, Mr. Clark kept meticulous journals of his daily social life and occasional business-related items.
While processing the collection, I found myself intrigued by his journals and began reading them. The entries ran the gamut from the joy of marriage to the sorrow of losing a child. They were so personal, I almost felt as if I knew him. I kept looking at the photographs of him and his family with a smile, as if I were looking at an old friend, someone I knew inside and out.
What’s It All About?
I think what is so appealing about this field is the ability to connect with those who have gone before us. And so, I think about Mr. King and his willingness to share a small portion of his mother’s life with me and eventually with the world. It is a wonderful way to honor her spirit. Now I know that Mr. King really understands what the AKC Archives is all about: It’s about looking at the detail and sharing memories. Many people remember Faye Bergman as only a breeder and a judge. Mr. King’s donation allows us all to have a more personal glimpse of Faye Bergman as confidant, nurse, healer, disciplinarian, teacher, and mother. Thank you, Mr. King.
The AKC Archives was founded in 1998 as a complimentary service for all parent and member clubs. Its mission is to “… collect, appraise, preserve and make available the records that describe the dedication of the organization and its member and parent clubs to the sport of the purebred dogs.” In reaching that goal, we are dedicated to creating a comprehensive repository with appropriate and historically significant material that supports our mission.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this service, please contact AKC Archivist Norma Rosado-Blake (firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-696-8216).