Research Thoughts

I Purchased a SHOTBOX During Rootstech

Yesterday I purchased a SHOTBOX. What is a SHOTBOX? The developer describes it this way: “The SHOTBOX is an all-in-one portable light studio that allows you to scan faster, capture amazing photos, and have fun unleashing your creative side all just using your smartphone.” Here is a link to their website:

Why did I purchase a SHOTBOX? To photograph family objects so that they can be cataloged and packed safely away in an archival manner. 

Until now I was not interested in owning a SHOTBOX. I found them fascinating, but you see, in my old house the kid’s bathroom made the perfect “studio” for capturing images of family objects, and there was no setup or storage. Well, maybe some clean-up of toothpaste residue, but that needed to be done anyway. But that house is no longer mine, and the new house does not sport a similar photo opportunity. So I decided to take a second look at the SHOTBOX and started to watch the videos that had been produced for Rootstech. The videos, combined with a conversation that I had had with my mother three weeks ago, sold me.

My in-laws wedding bands, photographed in the bathroom

Three weeks ago I was down in the basement amongst the yet to be opened boxes that we had moved from Appleton, and decided to open the box that contained my mother’s music boxes. I knew that many of them were not in the best shape having spent years in the basement, but they are full of memories. My mom had marked the bottom of each box with the month and year that she had received it, so I was looking for these dates as I unpacked each piece. I came across a box that had always been part of her collection but had no date marked on the bottom. I took it upstairs to ask her about it. This simple question of when she had received the box turned into an hour or more of conversation. And little did I know, it would be our last meaningful conversation, as she died last Sunday, February 21, 2021, from an aggressive form of kidney cancer. 

Lying in her bed, she told me that she had purchased the music box with money from Uncle Norman (Norman Tapper), in Switzerland, while on her trip to Europe. In the summer of 1955 my mother and two college friends, sailed to Europe to spend 31 days traveling through six countries. She was 22 years old. She went on to say that she arrived in Switzerland knowing that she wanted to find a certain type of box, one that was similar to a piece that her father had brought home from his trip to Europe in 1929. I don’t remember the next question that I asked her, but she said that her journal for the trip was in her sitting room, in the blanket chest in a bag she had also purchased on the trip. I went to look, found the bag and journal, and brought it back to her bedroom. Inside the bag was an envelope that contained the pictures she took on the trip along with all of the letters that she had written – and family members returned to her – and her journal. 

In the back of the journal was a “Cash Account” section where she noted every penny that she spent. The goal of each girl was to not spend more than $1,000, a goal they proudly reached. Looking through the book, I found the music box. She had paid 78 francs for it, and also included the conversion rate which was $18.09. Looking to see where she was on that day the “10th,” I find her in Geneva, Switzerland where the weather was “cool & clear.”

At my request, mom had put together a memory book for this trip, The Summer of 1955 which she had completed in June 2011. She wrote a great introductory page, with one of my favorite stories. You see, my mom never drove in my lifetime. Her early adult life was spent in Chicago, her early married life spent in New York City, and then Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin. In the first cities, she did not need a car, and arriving in Appleton, she and my dad only had one car, plus she could easily walk to what was then a vibrant downtown, from our little rental on Story Street. In her introduction, she wrote that her friends “…got their International Driver’s Licenses, but since I still hadn’t gotten my U.S. driver’s license I had to wait until we got to Paris to get mine. After I graduated [from Drake University] on June 7th I went home, applied for, took both written and driving tests, passed, and finally received my US driver’s license” My mother drove in the Swiss Alps, and took her turn throughout Europe, only to return to the United States, and never drive again.

While her book is amazing, with all of the photos organized and labeled, it does not include her journal. So that brings me back to the SHOTBOX and the video that decided the matter for me, Journal Tips – Rootstech Live Stream” where Aaron Johnson talks about his mom’s journal and how he digitized it. 

My SHOTBOX has been shipped, and while I wait, I am pondering how I will organize what I have. At this moment I am thinking that I will scan the journal, inserting the letters she sent home at the appropriate date within the journal. Once I reach the “Cash Account” I will photograph any items that we still have and add them to this section. In the final section, I will include the photo book she created in 2011, The Summer of 1955.

I am so glad that I decided to open the box that contained her music boxes, and took a look. 

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