Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Follow-up: Demolition of WWII-era building at the Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi

In the last essay, I showed some photographs of Building 2025, one of the "temporary" structures erected in World War II at the Waterways Experiment Station. I am glad I stopped to record what was left because on July 8, 2011, the backhoe started tearing it down.

It does not take long for a machine to tear down wood walls. But the floor was well made; the tractors drove on it without it collapsing.

This very interesting manifold was part of the water sprinkler system. Plumbing was well made in those days, made to last.

Finally, I found a room with thousands of 35 mm slides strewn about on the floor. They had once been labeled and neatly stored in sleeves or Kodak Carousel trays. Is this the fate of most old photographs? We cherish 100-year-old photographs of people and cities, but age and rarity have enhanced their value. Once photography became a common hobby in the post-war era, people took millions or billions of snapshots and dumped the negatives and prints in boxes. Possibly only the original photographer considered the work valuable. I often read on photography forums how a digital photographer backs up all his files on a RAID machine and sends a spare backup to safe storage somewhere. And if those machines fail, will it really matter? He takes 10,000 photographs a year and all of them are works of art? It is a guy thing. Will his family ever really look through his tens of thousands of files? The same with this old building. Does it really matter that it was torn down?)

(Photographs taken with a Panasonic G1 camera. The scene with the slides was an 8-second exposure.)

Update, July 13, 2011. The demolition continues.

During the 1980s and 1990s, this part of Building 2025 was the supply depot, where you could pick up stationery supplies, field books, some tools, work gloves, and similar small items. Back then, pens and pencils had "U.S. Government" or "Federal" written on them. They even stocked fountain pens and ink (was it red ink?). At the end of the summer, students would raid the supplies and take off to college crates of diskettes and notebooks. Then they closed the depot, with the idea that it was cheaper to send a government employee to Office Max to buy supplies. So much for convenience or saving money.

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