Putting names to faces at the archive

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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At the archives on Thursday, (L-R) Bob Ambrose, Brian Staffen and Pam Albert identify and write down the name of someone from an archived photo.

Brian Staffen believes maintaining the public library’s archive is an important part of preserving Moose Jaw’s history.

“A lot of younger people probably might not be so interested now, but they probably will be later on,” Staffen said. “Eventually they’ll get nosey and want to find out who’s who in town and if there are any relatives in these pictures. That’s basically what I was looking for.”

With the exception of a couple years spent in New Zealand, Staffen, 73, has spent his whole life in Moose Jaw.

He came to the archives on Thursday afternoon to help solve the mysteries of thousands of unidentified people in photos from the vault.

“I didn’t realize they were going to be this new, though. I thought maybe they might have something from the early ‘50s, late ‘40s and maybe into the ‘30s because my mother and dad lived here. They may have had some connection somewhere,” Staffen said.

There were about 40 photos on the tables in the archive reading room. Nearly all the photos were in black and white.

While Staffen found the photos were too new for him to identify most of the people, Bob Ambrose thought otherwise.

“There’s a lot of people in these photos going back to the ‘30s there, and I wasn’t here,” Ambrose said.

The 75-year-old suggested people in their 80s and 90s would have better luck being able to identify the lesser-known people in the photos.

Ambrose said it was quite easy to identify people like Ross Thatcher and Albert E. Peacock.

He found out about Thursday’s mystery solving opportunity by attempting the same challenge with his family’s own photo albums.

“We do a lot of genealogy and so we were in here looking up some old pictures and the fellow that was in here said this was happening,” Ambrose said.

This was the second time the Moose Jaw Public Library has requested help from the community in identifying the unknown people in photos.

Pam Albert, a librarian working in the reference and archive sections, said the event might even be held twice a year in the future.

“We’re running out of time for some of these,” Albert said about the photos.

She was referring to the fact that if we don’t identify people from these archive pictures soon, there won’t be anyone left who will be able to.

“If we don’t get moving on this again, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” Albert said.

Most of the photos are donated and the library doesn’t have a policy on mandatory captions for the materials. Some of the photos have writing on the back, but most don’t.

Close to about a dozen people stopped by the archive on Thursday.

Albert believes the archive is an important part of staying relevant in the future.

“We have people from all across Canada who come here and they’re hoping to find a picture of a relative or information about a relative,” Albert said.

Organizations: Moose Jaw Public Library

Geographic location: New Zealand, Moose Jaw, Canada

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