Museum Seeks Help In Identifying Thousands Of Unidentified Photos

Joan Hammer sorts through photos at the Mills County Historical Museum.

Joan Hammer holds up a photograph of a natural gas pipeline and ferry boat that crossed the Missouri River between Cass County, Neb., and Mills County before construction of the Plattsmouth Toll Bridge in the 1900s.

Joan Hammer admits it’s going to take months - maybe even years - to complete a massive project she’s taken on at the Mills County Historical Museum.

Hammer is overseeing the sorting and filing of thousands of photos, newspaper clippings and documents that have been obtained by the museum through donation or acquisition. Some of the photos have been displayed in the museum but most have been sitting in storage for years.

“They (photos) have just been sitting back here and I’m trying to go through them to separate and sort,” she said. “Most of these are just pictures people have brought in or dropped off.

“There’s so many that we haven’t gone through. We have some out there I haven’t even touched.”

The photos depict all walks of life and all eras of Mills County’s historic past. There are boxes and files of photos for every community in Mills County – everything from Glenwood’s Town Square and businesses to churches, houses and schools. A new file is being created for Mills County’s historic floods.

Hammer said unfortunately many of the people depicted in the photos aren’t identified. The museum is trying to come up with ways to get the public involved in identifying the photos. She presented a photo of a bus tour group that traveled to Alaska in the 1970s and a school class photo as examples of photos the museum is hoping to get ID’d.

“We keep telling people, please ID these,” she said. “We have so many photos without names. We have no idea who the people are.”

The first phase of the project – sorting and filing photos of Mills County’s country schools – is nearly complete. 

“I have done the country schools,” she said. “I started that last year or the year before and I pretty well have that taken care of. We have a lot of pictures of the country schools. I went to a couple of country schools.”

Although it’s time-consuming and sometimes tedious work, Hammer said she’s enjoying going through the photos, documents and articles.

“Of course, it takes me longer because I have to read a lot them,” she said. “It’s fun. Right now, it’s a mess, but I enjoy it. I really do.”


The Opinion-Tribune

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