Why do we need family photographs at the museum?

Images have power. As a form of language, visual data influences the way we create social meaning and share cultural knowledge. Seeing and then interpreting what we see is critical to our understanding the world from a particular lens or worldview.

Additionally, images have an ability to communicate beyond the power or necessity of words. It is true that a picture can be worth a thousand words, particularly in contemporary cultures that are visually driven. Images offer “thick descriptions” of people, events, places, and particular moments in time. It’s why social media is so popular and instrumental in present-day cultures.

Images also offer first-person perspectives on historical events that help us see and understand from different points of view. Photographs allow us to immerse ourselves in the histories and moments caught in a camSantee School marblesera’s lens.

Photographs can be objects or works of art. They can be a form of archival texts that document time, or windows into different cultures and worlds from our past. I like to think that photographs can bear witness. They provide visual evidence of a culture as a testament to our nation’s history.

It is for us to capture images of our times to preserve them for future generations. Fortunately with the availability access to social media and cloud storage today’s youth and those to come can enjoy these photos and many others that were once “lost”.

A photograph is actually an object in many ways. Just as museums are most interested in collecting original three-dimensional artifacts, we collect original photographs, negatives, digital negatives, or digital scans from negatives, depending on why and how the photo will be shared with the public. Antique and vintage photos and negatives are different from the contemporary images that sometimes come to us as digital negativ15432-1 Santee - Santee School - 1903es from the photographer.

In addition to being an object, though, images are also archival documents. So we’d want to collect images as original archival material as well. As a museum operating in the 21st century, we recognize that the original might also include digital files from digital cameras or high-resolution scans of negatives, which helps to stabilize images.

Our job is to share history and preserve American legacies, and sharing and preserving the work of photographers who have documented our nation’s culture and history is part of that.

The provenance and personal stories behind certain images, as well as the donors’ reasons for wanting to donate, are incredibly moving. People support our vision by helping to build the museum through donating family treasures has real value to us. Our collection is like a family album of sorts, with thousands of different branches in the family tree, and each one is significant to telling a broader story. Our donors become an important part of a  history, and the sense that the museum is working with a community of people as part of a family aligns with our mission.

Parts of this article are from – Aaron Bryant, NMAAHC’s curator

Do you have “Bats in Your Belfry”?


Just a little language history…

Do you know where the phrase “Bats in the Belfry” came from? The meaning of the word is “Crazy or eccentric”. Bats are, of course, the erratically flying mammals and ‘belfries’ are bell towers, sometimes found at the top of churches. ‘Bats in the belfry’ refers to someone who acts as though he has bats careering around his topmost part, that is, his head.

Although this phrase sounds like it came from Jolly Ole’ England, it does in fact originate in the USA and is not especially old. All the early citations are from American authors and date from the start of the 20th century; for example, this piece from the Ohio newspaper The Newark Daily Advocate, October 1900:

“To his hundreds of friends and acquaintances in Newark, these purile [sic] and senseless attacks on Hon. John W. Cassingham are akin to the vaporings of the fellow with a large flock of bats in his belfry.”

Ambrose Bierce, also American, used the term in a piece for Cosmopolitan Magazine, in July 1907, describing it as a new curiosity:

“He was especially charmed with the phrase ‘bats in the belfry’, and would indubitably substitute it for ‘possessed of a devil’, the Scriptural diagnosis of insanity.”

The use of ‘bats’ and ‘batty’ to denote odd behavior originated around the same time as ‘bats in the belfry’ and the terms are clearly related. Again, the first authors to use the words are American:

1903 A. L. Kleberg – Slang Fables from Afar: “She … acted so queer … that he decided she was Batty.

1919 Fannie Hurst – Humoresque: “ ‘Are you bats?’ she said.

There have been several attempts over the years to associate the term ‘batty’ with various people called Batty or Battie, notably the 18th century physician William Battie. He was a governor of the Bethlem Hospital, a.k.a. Bedlam, and physician to St Luke’s Hospital for Lunaticks, where he wrote A Treatise on Madness. Despite those illustrious credentials, it was bats rather than Battie that caused scatterbrained people to be called ‘batty’.

Do you know anyone who has Bats In their Bellfry?


1959 Santee Library News

With the push to build a new library in Santee becoming almost daily news, it seemed appropriate to post a newspaper articles from 1959 when a new library was also being built in Santee.

1959 library shelvingShelving Considered

Santee – A new idea in book shelving, whereby metal strips are attached to a wall to support wooden shelves, is being considered for the county’s proposed library in Santee.

Miss Frances Hahn, county librarian, said the new shelving costs about half that of the ordinary bracket-shelf type.

Negotiations are being completed for the rental of a 1,000 square foot building, two doors south of the Santee Post Office on Magnolia Avenue. The building, rented at $110 a month, is owned by the Cameron Construction Co. of Santee.

Miss Hahn said she is ordering furniture for the branch and hopes it will be opened before the end of February.

March 1959 - Libary Dedication


Santee —  Santee’s county library branch will open at 2 p.m. tomorrow with 3,000 books to loan.

Mrs. Natalie Bettencourt of El Cajon will be in charge of the library on Magnolia Avenue.

The library will be dedicated today in community ceremonies with Miss Frances Hahn, county librarian, as speaker.

The county had loaned books to Santee residents from a corner of a hardware store in the business section. This facility was closed six months ago.

The library will be open from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Thirty per cent of the books will be juvenile volumes.  The library will include a reference collection, fiction and non-fiction.

The Santee Chamber of Commerce is providing funds for magazines this year. Magazines are purchased at the beginning of each year through competitive bidding. No funds were set aside by the county for Santee periodicals.

San Diego Union March 15, 1959

Mail Delivery begun for Santee Lakeside – 1959

1959-05-02 Mail delivery begun






















Mail Delivery begun for Santee Lakeside

City mail delivery will begin today for 13,400 residents in Santee and Lakeside.  Residents in Carlton Hills, north of Mission Gorge road and west of Santee, will receive mail delivery for the first time. Sycamore Hills and Lakeside residents will be served by city delivery instead of rural delivery. The mail will be delivered to individual houses instead of rural post office boxes along streets in front of houses.

Approximately 12,000 persons in Lakeside, in an area bounded by El Monte Park, the Poway cutoff, U.S. Highway 80 and midway between Santee and Lakeside, will be affected by the Change. City delivery also will be furnished in the Eucalyptus Hills and Barona areas of Lakeside.

Approximately 424 new homes in the Carlton Hills and Sycamore Hills areas will be affected. Santee postal officials yesterday installed three collection boxes in Carlton Hills.

San Diego Union

May 22, 1959


New Pages Posted

We have just posted some obituaries of Santee Residents.  (See Obituaries in menu above.) If you have any additional ones you would like to add, or any pictures or stories about these people, please submit them to us at:   TheSanteeHistoricalSociety@gmail.com


The Chargers in Santee

This is not a joke!   The Generachargesl Manager of the Chargers entered into a 17 year contract to build an athletic complex in Santee, CA for year round use of the Chargers.  The Chargers will hold its pre-season and in-season training in Santee.

Read this newspaper article from 1970 to find all the facts.  What happened?  Where did they go?