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Looking Beyond Cute

July 28, 2016

Part of my job the best part really involves looking for collections images to share on Twitter and Instagram. Sometimes these images relate to what is going on in the world or the news. Sometimes they relate a piece of on-this-day history. But sometimes they reflect my mood that day and are spontaneous. I search random terms. Today I searched “pool.”

Predictably, I came up with images of the pool at Broad Ripple Park, Indy’s first public pool at South and Delaware streets, and the Garfield Park pool. Then I found this adorable image of a wading pool with nearly 30 kids that would have had me begging my parents for when I was six that’s in addition to begging for an in-ground home swimming pool, because you definitely need both in my six-year-old mind.

Before I post the image, I always look at the title and information about it. This is called metadata in the cataloging and library world. The title on this one was really interesting. It was “Wading Pool at Anti-Tuberculosis Camp, Allen County.” I’d heard of TB hospitals; my great-grandmother was in one for more than a year when my grandmother and her five siblings were young.


It turns out there were preventative measures in place for the disease that, at least in the first decades of the 20th century, was one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to an article from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, by the late 1920s most large cities had a privately or publicly funded “preventorium” on the outskirts of town.

Knowing even just a little about a photograph makes it so much more meaningful. Your first thought may be “oh, how cute,” but these children were sent to this camp with the idea that it could keep them from getting a deadly communicable disease. I wish I knew what their parents were thinking and feeling. What did the children think about this? Some of them in these photos are definitely old enough to grasp a little of what being at this camp meant. If anyone has any more information on this specific camp in Allen County, I’d love to hear from you.

Check out the Fighting Tuberculosis in Indiana digital collection here and learn more about TB from American Experience: The Forgotten Plague.


Chelsea Sutton is communications coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society. She started drinking coffee at age 3 with her dad and always stays up too late reading.

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