Alaska Life

The Anchorage Museum wants to know who the people in these photographs are

The Anchorage Museum receives donations of photographs every year from throughout Alaska. The bad news is most of them don't come with much information.

For the past 6 years Anchorage Museum archivist Sara Piasecki and a team of volunteers have had a booth in the artists and exhibitors hall at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention to try and figure out who exactly are the people in the photos.

This year, they brought around 400 photos in folders sorted by regions of Alaska. AFN attendees were encouraged to look through the photos to see if they could identify any of the people and what is going on in the photos.

Elvina Lincoln, from Anchorage, found a photograph of her as a 3-year old in Anaktuvuk Pass in 1976. Lincoln looks into the camera wearing a kuspuk her mother made for her.

Mary Foster, from Wasilla, was able to identify people in photographs donated by George Harbeson Jr. from a community gathering in Selawik.

Over the past 6 years more than 1600 photos have been identified, making the photos more valuable for documenting the history of Alaska. Piasecki said "it connects the photos to community that makes them relevant." Piasecki says that on average about 40 percent of the photographs gain identification at AFN. The North Slope area has the best record with 80 percent identification.

Gemma Gaudio, from Anchorage, found a photograph of her parents Fred and Bridget Joseph and two brothers Noel and Thomas Joseph taken in the early 50's in Hooper Bay. Gaudio signed up for the museum to send her a copy of the photograph. The museum will provide two photographs to people who participate in the program.

Museum archivist Piasecki said, "For some people it is the 6th year coming to the table." They have new old photographs every year.

This year they brought photographs from the museum's ivory collection to try to identify the artists. They planned to take them around to artist's tables to see if anyone could put a name to the artwork.