Posted at 03:09 PM ET, 11/08/2011

A Paris postcard: 1968 and 2011

In a Sunday column, I wrote of how Web sites allow history to stay alive, archived and ever-more searchable. Sites like Shorpy’s and How to Be a Retronaught are inspiring readers to dive deep into history themselves, seeking to recreate it with photograph montages that compare the present to the past. One reader, Joan G. Nagle wrote in to share her son-in-law’s experimentation with the art of recreating the old in the new. Her tale:

My daughter, Emily Green and her husband recently spent a month in a rented apartment in Paris. During that time, she took him to the Boulevard Saint Germain, to see the hotel where she, her sister, and her father and I had stayed during our first trip abroad, in 1968.

Her husband, Jack, took her picture there, in front of the hotel He combined that picture with one taken in 1968 in which Emily poses with her father and sister in front of the same place, the Grand Hotel de Lima. (It wasn’t all that grand; we were on a tight budget!) She was 10 years old at the time, and her sister, Laura, was 8.

Now they are both in their 50s, and their father is deceased. You can imagine how touched I was to see this, and how amazed that it was possible for Jack to retrieve this old photo (from his files back in Boston!), superimpose it on the new one, and created a postcard from the result.

On the back, she wrote, “The name has changed, and the lobby, but it’s very much the spot we first landing in ‘68. The manager loved us showing him the ‘68 photo and hearing the story.”

That story included a reference to the riots which shook all of Paris in May 1968. There were police in riot gear in front of the hotel during much of our stay, and newspapers told of fires being set all over the city by the protesters. I was really scared that our hotel would go up in flames, and us with it! But, obviously, we survived to tell the tale (and illustrate it).

By  |  03:09 PM ET, 11/08/2011

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