Have you ever found something that didn’t belong to you in a book you were reading? What did you do with it?

Those regulars to our Petergate shop and those who like to keep up to date with our goings on, might have noticed our current window display. Gaining the interest of the York Press a couple of weeks ago, as well as Oxfam’s national ‘shop of the week’ nomination, the ‘Found’ display has been intriguing Yorkies and tourists alike, stopping to inspect what it is all about.

Using old OS maps as a backdrop to echo the element of discovery the items hold, our display is made up wholly of ‘stuff’ – for want of a better word – found in books donated to us over the last few months. Be it an anonymous black and white portrait photograph of a dark haired, beautiful, serious looking woman; a signed cigarette card of George Harrison sporting a goofy smile; a booklet of a sermon from 1857; a postcard addressed to ‘mum’; Van Morrison tickets from 1995, they were all ‘found’ in donated books to Oxfam, perhaps once used as a makeshift bookmark or slipped inside for safe keeping to only be forgotten about.

What struck me when I had a first proper look at the display was that, despite the disparate nature of many of these little pieces of ‘found’ history, they all have underlying similarities and connections. They are all about people: genuine human experience, memories and emotions. Bringing together otherwise unconnected lives and eras like this makes you realise how many things actually change very little. I smiled when seeing a flyer for ‘Darren’s Soul Night’ at the Hippodrome in London (9pm – 3.30am) on Wednesday 14th October 1987. It could have easily been a flyer handed to me on my way to the office this morning, perhaps with some appropriately underground house or dance DJ being advertised instead, but the timings, the location and the idea of dancing ‘til the sun rises still firmly in place. Each item provides a snippet of strangers’ lives, passed unknowingly on to another stranger, and maybe more thereafter. It is up to the unwitting recipient to build a story behind the photograph, the letter, the train ticket, the gig, the postcard.

Ultimately, it reminded me of the passing on of books in general. Reading a great novel or collection of poetry can be a very personal experience, but it also connects you to those who have also had that same pleasure. All the books on our shelves have been enjoyed by others and this local level of recycling connects us all. The ‘found’ display is a great reminder of the community impact of the shop, as well as the impact its donations have to projects around the world. Books can pass through many lives in their lifespan and every so often one of its owners will leave – on purpose or by accident – a little clue or insight into their life; becoming a story in itself, alongside the stories within the books themselves.  If you haven’t been already, come on in to the shop to have a look at the display and you can create some stories for yourself.

All the items are for sale and of great nostalgic, historical or anecdotal interest. Pop in to see for yourself.