The Gathering’s Cabinet of Curiosities: Hidden kisses

At the National Central Library of Florence, we hold a few photographs, letters and postcards belonging to the 1966 flood-damaged collections that still need to be studied and treated. Among them, about 20 postcards, the earliest dated 1903, tell us about the long-distance love affair of Emma and Umberto. Short greetings and signs of affection and respect were handwritten on the image side of the postcard, while hugs and quivering kisses were hidden under the stamps.


Emma and Umberto eventually married and gave birth to a daughter, Anna Maria Alari Campostrini, who worked at the National Library from 1935 to 1968. It is unclear whether these letters had been damaged within the library in 1966, or whether they had been brought in by Anna Maria from her flooded house. It is nonetheless a privilege to have unearthed this bit of family heritage.

Barbara Cattaneo is a paper, book and photograph conservator. She has been working at the National Central Library of Florence since 1999. She holds a BA in Sciences of Cultural Heritage and received advanced training at, among others, GEH, ICCROM, Tobunken and GCI. She has taught photograph conservation and given workshops on photographic processes at ICRCPAL in Rome, Alinari, OPD and KHI in Florence. She is founding member of Fotonomia Firenze, a non-profit cultural association devoted to research and dissemination of analogue photography.  

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