Strangers in the Box

Written in 1997, Pamela Harazim’s poem ‘The Strangers in the Box’ points out that many of us have boxes of unattributed photos tucked away in our homes – photos of family, friends, neighbours and strangers that only we can name. Does this sound like you?


Come, look with me inside this drawer
In this box I’ve often seen
At the pictures, black and white
Faces proud, still and serene.

I wish I knew the people
These strangers in the box
Their names and all their memories
Are lost among the socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone would have taken time,
To tell who, what, and when,
Those faces of my heritage
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories
Someday to be tossed away.

Make time to save your pictures
Seize the opportunity when it knocks
Or someday you and yours could be
The strangers in the box.

 Author: Pam Harazim, 1997

What have you done with the photos accumulated over the years? Are they neatly stored in albums, with people named, dates written and places identified? Maybe you have scanned and digitised your snaps and carefully filled them by person or year?

The Easter break is a great opportunity to start this important task, even if you take an 2B pencil and lightly write the details on the bottom left corner of each photo. In many families, you could be the one person in your family with the correct information to do this job. Why not set aside some time this Easter weekend to make a start on the strangers in your box?

Annie Payne, Professional Personal Historian since 1988, History from the Heart

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