August 28, 2014
Nora Velez of Anchorage was flipping through archival black-and-white photographs when she came across a familiar face – her mother, Lucy Kelly, who recently passed away.
Nora was emotional: She had never seen this picture before. It was taken in Old Harbor in the 1940s and showed her mother as a gradeschooler wearing a jaunty cap and a shy smile.
The image was taken by teachers Etta and Foster Jones. After Etta’s death, the Anchorage Museum acquired the couple’s photographs. The image of Lucy Kelly arrived without any identifying information, like so many of the 500,000 images the museum has acquired in its history.
Now thanks to Velez the museum file for this image includes a place, a time period and, most important, a name to go with the face.
This is just one of many success stories from the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention. For the first time, the Anchorage Museum brought unidentified images to the convention, encouraging passers by to look through the stacks and see if they recognized anyone.
Response was overwhelming: Of 441 images, AFN attendees identified 240.
“This confirms that we are collecting the right images,” said Sara Piasecki, the museum’s photo archivist. “We are collecting statewide and collecting photographs that are important to people, photographs people can connect with and that reflect their communities.”
Piasecki plans to host a similar photo identification event at the museum. The museum is pursuing funding to upload the 240 newly identified images into Alaska’s Digital Archives, which is available to the public online.