We all have those old family photos. Maybe we are not sure where they were taken or who everyone in the photo is. The Maine Memory Network facilitated by the Maine Historical Society has similar unidentified photos posted from Historical Society members from all over the state. They have set up a Mystery Corner hoping someone has information on them. “It began because we noticed we have a lot of items we didn’t have info on so we decided to crowdsource them,” according to Tilly Laskey Outreach Coordinator at the Maine Historical Society.” With a $500,000 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Maine Historical Society (MHS), launched a statewide program to encourage individuals to become active participants in the history of their places. The three-year project built on and continues development of the Maine Memory Network, a nationally recognized digital museum. Working closely with local museums, historical societies, libraries, and schools throughout Maine, MHS staff developed and piloted tools, resources, and an outreach program that gives individuals the ability to participate in and contribute to Maine Memory.
The photos with missing information, ranging from the 1800s and later, are marked with a question mark on a blue banner which means there is something not known about the photo. “Some of the photos have unidentified people or we do not know the location or year. We may have a great photo but if we do not know who or where it is it does not have much historical value. Context, that means everything to historians and people who deal with culture, Laskey said,” Those who have information about the photo can leave a message in the comment section for the photo.
The network has had several successes so far, in identifying photos. “The most famous identification was the picture we titled The Little Nun which was identified as Felicia Garant as herself when she was a child. We had a picture of a little girl in a nun’s habit. Garant was looking on Facebook and saw the photo posted and recognized it as her. She sent us a note and we updated the record and marked it as “solved. Not only do we have a really good record now but she put up the story behind the photo as well.
The Maine Memory Network opened in 2001 and its Mystery Corner opened two years ago. The Mystery Corner can be found at www.Mainememorynetwork/mystery. The story behind the Little Nun picture can be found at https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/67730