In these times of social media, selfies and likes, what’s left when we checkout for good? Will anyone look at my digital profile then? Does anyone remember me when my updates cease to come?
What do we actually leave behind us, and what becomes the footprint of a person?
It all started with a secondhand finding in my hometown Gothenburg. An old schoolherbarium. And for some reason I still don’t know, did I buy it. A lot of dried, pressed plants. I got the idea to let the herbarium make a journey back in time to when the plants and flowers were picked. They were going to get their colors back. And to make that happen, I used the most modern digital technology. The images blew me away. Large, vibrant and full off detail.
But then I started to think about the person who once made the herbarium. “Anne-Marie Petterson, Ale” is all that is written in it. Who was she? Is it possible to recreate her life as well?
Another journey back in time began. I sent e-mails to city municipalities, museums and genealogists. And believe it or not, suddenly there was an answer in my inbox. Mattias Lundin, archivist in the Ale municipality, had been looking through all gradebooks that are kept and got a hit. Anne-Marie Petterson was in sixth grade in the schoolyear of 1931/32 at the Alafors elementary school. That’s over 80 years ago.
It turned out that she was born the 30/6-1919 in the parish of Starrkärr. Information that took genealogist Kerstin Ljungkvist in Ale further on into Anne-Maries history. Anne-Marie was an only child and grew up in a surrounding dominated by the weaving factory in Alafors. Her father was a weavingmaster and started his own weaving business in the beginning of the forties. A company that Anne-Marie took over in the beginning of the sixties. She got married in 1962 and became a widow in 1982. She herself passed away in 2008. A year after that, did I find the herbarium in that secondhand store in Gothenburg.
A long life. No children or siblings to tell her story. No pictures or texts. Just a few leads to her life, and most of them only visible to those who’s looking for them. And so of course, an old schoolproject that chance put in my way.
I leave for Alafors to get a feeling of how her life might have looked like in the thirties. The weaving factory is still there, closed a long time ago. Today there’s a brewery, studios and a refugee home for children, amongst other things. Close to the factory stands the old school building, marked by all years that has passed. Opposite the school, I get a glimpse of the old teachers house through the highgrown bushes.
I walk down to the stream that flows through the landscape, and stops on the little bridge. From here I can see the weaving factory, the school, the houses where the workers lived and the teachers house. It takes some time until I find the house where Anne-Marie lived as a child. A bit to the side, over a hill. It strikes me that nothing here is very far away. Home, school, her fathers workplace and possible friends are within a square, not more than 500 meters on any side.
This was Anne-Maries world.