The Clausen Memorial Museum in Petersburg has a collection of about 50,000 historical photographs. The photos document a century of life in Petersburg, from the 1880s to around 1980. But, according to museum director Lizzie Walsh, somewhere between one half and three quarters have not yet been catalogued, meaning the people and places shown remain unidentified.
Museum staff and volunteers started making a push to properly label and archive the collection in the early 2000s, an effort that continues today. Walsh says it’s a lot of work for a small museum, but that she enjoys looking through the old photographs. Occasionally she’ll even stumble across some funny little moments.
“There’s one of a 4th of July parade from the 1950s, I think it was from the 1950s. It’s the photo of the children in the parade, and then in the background there’s a dog going to the bathroom on the street, and it’s looking at the camera. It’s pretty funny,” Walsh said.
Most of the photos are more serious, like one of a large funeral from the 1920s that Walsh and assistant curator Anne Lee are currently working to decipher. It’s slow going, trying to decode each individual piece like this. Walsh says there are a few ways people from the community can help out with the project.
“They could come up here and volunteer in the winter and help catalogue some of the photos,” she said. “They could become a member, because you know we always need those membership dollars that keep our doors open and our lights on so we can continue to scan and organize.”
Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org