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Marshall Foundation catalogs unique photo album that came in during lockdown

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - While most everything was on COVID lockdown last year, some things kept going, like the arrival of artifacts in museums and archives such as Lexington’s George C. Marshall Foundation. Now, they’re finally able to catch up with the delicate review and cataloging.

One such item is a 100-year-old photo album, much like one you might find in grandma’s attic, but containing a very different sort of pictures.

“Yeah, so I’m, like, the first person to, like, look at this photo because it’s just been, like, locked in a closet for a hundred years now, basically,” said VMI Cadet Garrett DeFazio.

He is interning at the Marshall Foundation, where he’s digitizing the pictures saved by an Army officer of his experiences in the First World War.

“When these photos were taken in World War I, it’s the first time the United States Army actually sent out photographers to take pictures and document combat and what the soldiers were experiencing,” DeFazio explained.

“Interaction with primary source material is really key to a robust and rigorous undergraduate education in the field of history,” said Adams Center Director Col. Bradley Coleman.

Cadet DeFazio’s internship is part of a program funded by VMI’s Adams Center, helping the Marshall Foundation clear out some of the backlog of digitizing and cataloging items that came in last year during the COVID lockdown.

“Relationships matter,” Coleman said. “And by putting students in professional settings, we’re building relationships that will last a lifetime.”

And it has the benefit of allowing moments of personal indulgence.

“I have a couple favorite photos that I enjoy looking at,” DeFazio said, leafing through the album. “This one’s on the last page. It was taken in 1918, September 26.”

Just before the end of the war, the war they thought would end all wars.

“And it’s kind of cool to look at this photo, and kind of place yourself in their shoes, thinking that it’s over after this,” DeFazio said. “Once this war ends, we’re not going to see another one. It’s going to be you know, peace for eternity.”

A haunting lesson for someone planning to commission on graduation.

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