The “Vintage Daily” Instagram Account Posts Old Photos You Rarely See In History Books, And Here Are 50 Really Memorable Ones
We explore the past to understand the present. And pictures can help us tremendously. However, even though textbooks and other sources use images to illustrate the history they're talking about, we often focus on the written content instead.
Now don't take this as a critique of the practice, but let's switch things up a bit and take a look at the Instagram account 'Vintage Daily.'
It shares lesser-known visuals to shed new light on people and events from earlier times, providing a sneak peek into moments that might've been forgotten had it not been for photographers who decided to immortalize them.
More info: Instagram
But why bother with history in the first place? Well, Peter N. Stearns, a professor at George Mason University, said that it's vital to our lives even though we like to live in the present and plan for the future.
"In the first place, history offers a storehouse of information about how people and societies behave," Stearns wrote. "Understanding the operations of people and societies is difficult, though a number of disciplines make the attempt. An exclusive reliance on current data would needlessly handicap our efforts. How can we evaluate war if the nation is at peace—unless we use historical materials? How can we understand genius, the influence of technological innovation, or the role that beliefs play in shaping family life, if we don't use what we know about experiences in the past?"
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The professor highlighted that some social scientists attempt to formulate laws or theories about human behavior but even these recourses depend on historical information, except for in limited, often artificial cases in which experiments can be devised to determine how people act.
"Major aspects of a society's operation, like mass elections, missionary activities, or military alliances, cannot be set up as precise experiments. Consequently, history must serve, however imperfectly, as our laboratory, and data from the past must serve as our most vital evidence in the unavoidable quest to figure out why our complex species behaves as it does in societal settings."
This, fundamentally, is why we can not stay away from history, Stearns said. "It offers the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives."
RuPaul And Nirvana Backstage At The Mtv Music Awards, 1993
Audrey Hepburn And Her Dog Mr. Famous Photographed By Sid Avery, 1957
The second reason history is inescapable as a subject of serious study stems from the first. "The past causes the present, and so the future," Stearns said. "Any time we try to know why something happened—whether a shift in political party dominance in the American Congress, a major change in the teenage suicide rate, or a war in the Balkans or the Middle East—we have to look for factors that took shape earlier."
Sometimes fairly recent history will suffice to explain a major development, but we often need to backtrack more to identify the causes of change.
"Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change."
Marilyn Monroe And Jane Russell On Set Of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953
Queen On The Set Of The “I Want To Break Free” Music Video, 1984
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History well told — either through text, pictures, or any other medium — is beautiful. Many historians know the importance of dramatic and skillful writing (as well as of accuracy). They understand that with proper form they can transform a seemingly "dry" unappealing story to something that deeply moves the general public.
"Biography and military history appeal in part because of the tales they contain," Stearns said. "History as art and entertainment serves a real purpose, on aesthetic grounds but also on the level of human understanding. Stories well done are stories that reveal how people and societies have actually functioned, and they prompt thoughts about the human experience in other times and places."
"The same aesthetic and humanistic goals inspire people to immerse themselves in efforts to reconstruct quite remote pasts, far removed from immediate, present-day utility," the historian explained.
A Crow Lighting The Cigarette Of Tippi Hedren On The Set Of “The Birds” (Dir. By Alfred Hitchcock), 1963
Marlene Dietrich Kissing A Soldier Returning From Wwii, 1945
Hedy Lamarr In Ziegfeld Girl, 1941 directed By Robert Z. Leonard
History also provides a bridge to moral contemplation. Studying the stories of individuals and situations they've been in the past, whether we're talking about the Queen or Heath Ledger, allows us to test our own moral sense, to hone it against some of the real complexities people have faced in difficult settings.
"People who have weathered adversity not just in some work of fiction, but in real, historical circumstances can provide inspiration. 'History teaching by example' is one phrase that describes this use of a study of the past—a study not only of certifiable heroes, the great men and women of history who successfully worked through moral dilemmas, but also of more ordinary people who provide lessons in courage, diligence, or constructive protest."
Young Heath Ledger
History also helps people to find their identity, and this is actually one of the reasons why modern nations continue to encourage its teaching in some form.
"Historical data include evidence about how families, groups, institutions, and whole countries were formed and about how they have evolved while retaining cohesion. For many Americans, studying the history of one's own family is the most obvious use of history, for it provides facts about genealogy and (at a slightly more complex level) a basis for understanding how the family has interacted with larger historical change," Stearns said.
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Mott Haven, New York City, 1979 photographed By David Gonzalez
Cher, Elton John And Diana Ross At The Rock Music Awards At The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1975
Even if we take a step back and look at institutions, businesses, and other social units, such as ethnic groups, we can see that they also use history for similar purposes.
"Merely defining the group in the present pales against the possibility of forming an identity based on a rich past," Stearns explained. "And of course, nations use identity history as well ... Histories that tell the national story, emphasizing distinctive features of the national experience, are meant to drive home an understanding of national values and a commitment to national loyalty."
So if you find yourself unable to stop scrolling through this list, don't worry. You're not wasting your time. You're growing in more ways than you might think!