Shenandoah County Library seeks public’s help to ID old photos

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT
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EDINBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Shenandoah County Library is asking for the public’s help with a major local history project. It is in the process of adding thousands of photos from the county to an online collection and needs help identifying some of the people in them.

The photos come from Morrison Studios which was a photo shop in Shenandoah County from around 1900 to the early 1980s.

“Because the collection is so old and there are photographs that were produced well over 100 years ago, not a lot of them are identified. Approximately we could say maybe 15 to 20 percent there’s some type of identification for,” said Zachary Hottel, the Shenandoah County Library Archivist.

The Morrison Studios Collection consists of over 30,000 photos, many of which are unidentified. In the last two years, the library has been working with the Shenandoah County Historical Society to begin digitizing the images and putting them in an online collection.

“We’re taking the digital versions and doing the identification at a different level by trying to share that publicly. You can actually go in and look at those and if you know what the photograph is or who it is you can leave a comment on that entry,” said Hottel.

So far the library has digitized around 5,400 images. For the last two months each Monday, it has posted an unidentified portrait on its social media pages.

“People then become interested and go to our site. We’ve collected a good number of identifications based on that and then also just sharing the link out there with people,” said Hottel. “We have probably increased the number of IDs so far by probably about 10 to 15 percent and we hope that as we get to the newer ones and those get shared publicly online that that number is only going to go up.”

The digitizing of the collection has also helped get more people involved in the ID process.

“Previously you had to come look at the physical things so now what’s happening is people who have connections to the county but live somewhere else are now able to come in and make those IDs and really become involved in the collection from wherever they live,” said Hottel.

The online collection and IDs have brought new energy to the Morrison Project and a better understanding of the county’s history.

“We can take those IDs and then researchers either for genealogy or for some other aspect of local history can use those better than just an unidentified man or woman or something in a photograph,” said Hottel.

Hottel said it will likely take another three or four years before the entire 30,000 photo collection can be digitized.